Easy Virtue (PG)
Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Tue Nov 4 2008It may date from 1926, but Noël Coward’s sly comedy highlights the repressed insularity of the crumbling English aristocracy with enough continuing relevance to sustain this ’20s-set screen adaptation. Letting Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth loose on a steady supply of catty one-liners is, of course, another selling point, and both prove well up to the task as the fiercely snobbish mother and war-chastened father welcoming their raffish son (Ben Barnes, lumbered with a rather wishy-washy role) back to the ancestral seat. His new bride, Larita (Jessica Biel) is not only American, however, but a famed auto-racer with a chequered past, so winning over her man’s fuddy-duddy folks could be quite a challenge.
Thankfully, ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ director Stephan Elliott has no intention of turning this into some anodyne drawing-room divertissement. But it’s as if Elliott is trying a bit too hard: there’s a flurry of ostentatious camera moves, an often ungainly rhythm to the scenes and the conceit of shoehorning vocal numbers old and new (‘Sex Bomb’, anyone?) into an already dialogue-heavy soundscape was surely a non-starter. Still, nobody does matronly hauteur like Scott Thomas, and peroxide bombshell Biel proves surprisingly confident with the dialogue, if ultimately lacking enough variety of approach when Coward turns the tables to suggest her glamorous interloper is not all that. Overall, the film’s never less than lively – with Kris Marshall a nifty scene-stealer as the wise butler – yet you do get the sense that greater discipline all round would have made even more of it. As it is, it’s fizzy, but variable.
Author: Trevor Johnston