'Easy Virtue' easy to like
Reviewer Moira Macdonald gets a kick out of the Cole Porter-infused "Easy Virtue," a period comedy directed by Stephan Elliott and starring Jessica Biel, Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Seattle Times movie critic
"Easy Virtue," with Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Barnes. Directed by Stephan Elliott, from a screenplay by Elliott and Sheridan Jobbins, based on the play by Noel Coward. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity and smoking throughout. Several theaters.
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Let me just confess right now to having a weakness for movies with Cole Porter songs in them, and Stephan Elliott's "Easy Virtue," in which random people keep popping up and quoting lines from Porter tunes, fits the bill nicely.
Set vaguely in the late-1920s/early-1930s (yes, before many of said songs were written — this one isn't for the purists), it's a bouncy adaptation of a Noel Coward play about a glamorous American (Jessica Biel) who marries a young Brit (Ben Barnes), but quickly finds that she doesn't fit in with his very traditional family.
Elliott (best known for "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"), who adapted the play with Sheridan Jobbins, keeps things light and silly, sometimes head-scratchingly so: Listen carefully and you'll hear a '30s-styled version of the '70s disco hit "Car Wash" on the soundtrack. And the couple at the story's center suffer from just a bit of blandness: Biel seems overly actressy (even for a role that's required to be so); Barnes can't find anything distinctive in his standard-issue-male-ingenue role.
But Elliott's got a couple of aces up his sleeve: the ever-wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth, who play the bridegroom's parents. Scott Thomas, frumped up impressively (it's no easy trick to make this beautiful woman look plain), plays the scary-mother-in-law to the hilt, keeping her face precisely arranged while twisting her sentences like knives to the heart. And Firth, whose disillusioned character seems both above and below it all, brings his own brand of weary glamour; speaking little but conveying much, particularly in a saucy late-movie tango with Biel in which all this man's stifled dreams seem to come to light. Echoing the words of the great Porter song, "Easy Virtue" deliciously misbehaves.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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