Easy Virtue is the name of the latest Noel Coward adaption to film by Stephan Elliott. Jessica Biel (she of the “I’m too beautiful to get good roles” quote) stars in this adaptation, along with Colin Firth and Kristen Scott Thomas. When the film began, I was reminded of Brideshead Revisited, with the huge English mansion and the middle-aged mum who runs the show. I found the movie very witty, silly, and overall, very fun. Most of the actors were very quick with the back and forth banter as in all of Coward’s plays. I guess a certain silliness is allowed (mostly concerning the family pooch), but these “pooch” scenes were just a little too silly and unbelievable for me.
Biel plays Larita, an American race car driver who is doing quite well for herself in Monaco. She meets a young man, John Whitaker, and they impulsively get married and then go to visit his wealthy English family. As soon as they arrive, the cattiness begins between Larita and her new mother- and sisters-in-law. They only see her as the opportunistic American. Her only ally is John’s father, a World War I vet, who tinkers with his motorcycle but doesn’t do much else. Seeing Kristen Scott Thomas and Colin Firth as these middle-aged parents took a little getting used to, but they were splendid in their roles. Firth was rather unkempt in this movie, with his 5-o’clock shadow and disheveled hair, which made him all the more appealing.
Of course, Larita has a secret that comes to light late in the movie. Apparently, she is a widow whose husband died under mysterious circumstances. Following this exposition, there’s the requisite big party, where all else is exposed and all is neatly concluded. I recommend Easy Virtue to anyone who wants quick dialogue, silliness, beautiful costumes and setting, and a delightful performance by some fine actors used to a little more drama. By the way, even though Biel is beautiful, she carries her own very well in this acting performance.
Easy Virtue was released in the UK in 2008 and is now making its US run.