Easy Virtue (2008) Poster

Easy Virtue (2008)

  • Rate: 6.6/10 total 9,268 votes 
  • Genre: Comedy | Romance
  • Release Date: 7 November 2008 (Ireland)
  • Runtime: 97 min
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Easy Virtue (2008)


Easy Virtue 2008tt0808244.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: Easy Virtue (2008)
  • Rate: 6.6/10 total 9,268 votes 
  • Genre: Comedy | Romance
  • Release Date: 7 November 2008 (Ireland)
  • Runtime: 97 min
  • Filming Location: Ealing Studios, Ealing, London, England, UK
  • Gross: $2,656,324(USA)(4 October 2009)
  • Director: Stephan Elliott
  • Stars: Jessica Biel, Ben Barnes and Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Original Music By: Marius De Vries   
  • Soundtrack: Mad About the Boy
  • Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
  • Plot Keyword: Estate | American | Manipulation | Cross Cultural | Marriage

Writing Credits By:

  • Stephan Elliott  written by &
  • Sheridan Jobbins  written by and
  • Noel Coward  based on the play by

Known Trivia

  • In the vintage Monte Carlo scene which opens the movie, when Larita first sees John both her and John’s movements are slowed down while the rest of the cast play at ‘normal’ (i.e newsreel) speed. This was accomplished by filming the crowd, Larita, John, the background and the foreground mechanics separately against green screen and compositing them together at different speeds.
  • During the end credits all of the musicians who played in the orchestra featured on the soundtrack are introduced in voice-over simulating the introductions from the bandstand of a live performance, with each musician playing a brief sample.
  • Though not expressly stated, the story gives the impression the Larita is somewhat older than John (she repeated refers to him as a boy). In fact, Jessica Biel is actually younger than Ben Barnes by several months.

Goofs: Anachronisms: The tune "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" was first performed in June 1931, seven years after the setting of the film.

Plot: A young Englishman marries a glamorous American. When he brings her home to meet the parents, she arrives like a blast from the future – blowing their entrenched British stuffiness out the window. Full summary » |  »

Story: Between world wars, the Whittaker's estate is sinking; only the iron will of Mrs. Whittaker staves off bankruptcy while she awaits her son John's return from the continent. To her dismay, he brings a bride: an American widow who races cars. The bride, Larita, thinks she and John will visit and then go to London, where he'll work and she'll race. But John is to the manor born, and mother is nothing if not a master at plans and manipulation. Soon it's all-out war between mother and bride, with John's father, a burnt out veteran of the Great War, in the bride's corner ineffectually. Mother has a plan to join with the neighboring estate; only Larita is in her way. Can't we all get along?Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>  

FullCast & Crew

Produced By:

  • Joseph Abrams known as producer
  • Paul Brett known as executive producer
  • Alexandra Ferguson known as co-producer
  • Louise Goodsill known as executive producer
  • Douglas Hansen known as executive producer
  • Ralph Kamp known as executive producer
  • George McGhee known as executive producer
  • Sophie Meyer known as associate producer
  • Peter Nichols known as executive producer
  • Tim Smith known as executive producer
  • James Spring known as executive producer
  • James D. Stern known as producer
  • Barnaby Thompson known as producer
  • Cindy Wilkinson Kirven known as executive producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Jessica Biel known as Larita Whittaker
  • Ben Barnes known as John Whittaker
  • Kristin Scott Thomas known as Veronica Whittaker
  • Colin Firth known as Mr. Whittaker
  • Kimberley Nixon known as Hilda Whittaker
  • Katherine Parkinson known as Marion Whittaker
  • Kris Marshall known as Furber
  • Christian Brassington known as Phillip Hurst
  • Charlotte Riley known as Sarah Hurst
  • Jim McManus known as Jackson
  • Pip Torrens known as Lord Hurst
  • Jeremy Hooton known as Davis
  • Joanna Bacon known as Cook / Doris / Beatrice
  • Maggie Hickey known as Millie the Maid
  • Georgie Glen known as Mrs. Landrigin
  • David Longstaff known as Reverend Burton
  • Michael Archer known as Warwick Holborough
  • Rebel Penfold-Russell known as Mrs. Winston
  • Stewart Clarke known as Young Man #1
  • Oliver Reid known as Young Man #2
  • Joe Reid known as Young Man #3
  • Stephan Elliott known as Grumpy Party Guest
  • Sheridan Jobbins known as Grumpy Party Guest
  • Fizz known as Poppy
  • Laurence Richardson known as Marcus (uncredited)



Supporting Department

Makeup Department:
  • Tamsin Dorling known as hair stylist
  • Tamsin Dorling known as makeup artist
  • Paul Gooch known as hair stylist
  • Paul Gooch known as makeup artist
  • Flora Moody known as daily makeup trainee
  • Paul Mooney known as hair stylist
  • Paula Price known as hair stylist
  • Paula Price known as makeup artist
  • Barbara Taylor known as crowd hair stylist
  • Barbara Taylor known as crowd makeup artist
  • Jeremy Woodhead known as hair designer
  • Jeremy Woodhead known as makeup designer

Art Department:

  • Louise Begbie known as assistant art director
  • Tristan Carlisle-Kitz known as dressing props
  • Chris Cull known as property master
  • Nigel Kirk known as hod painter
  • Dougie Lankston known as dressing prop daily
  • Jono Moles known as construction manager
  • Lucy Moles known as construction buyer
  • John Moolenschot known as on-set carpenter
  • Barnaby Papworth known as construction coordinator
  • Alan Payne known as graphic artist
  • Simon Riley known as props storeman
  • Rosie Rose known as set decorating assistant
  • Sarah Stuart known as stand-by art director
  • Lloyd Vincent known as chargehand stand-by props
  • Lee Wiseman known as props
  • Gary Dempsey known as stand-by painter (uncredited)
  • Rohan Harris known as paintings (uncredited)
  • Scott Keery known as props (uncredited)
  • Tom Roberts known as standby prop (uncredited)




Production Companies:

  • Ealing Studios
  • Fragile Films
  • Endgame Entertainment (in association with)
  • BBC Films (in association with)
  • Joe Abrams Productions (in association with)
  • Odyssey Entertainment (in association with)
  • Prescience Production Partnerships (in association with)
  • Prescience

Other Companies:

  • AGM Productions  french voice rec edit and mix
  • ARRI Media  camera and grip equipment provided by
  • Alex Rose Wig Company  wigs (as Alex Rouse Wig Company)
  • Alpha Grip  cranes
  • Angels the Costumiers  costumes
  • Birds & Animals UK  animals (as Birds & Animals)
  • Blitz Hire  rigging equipment
  • Casting Collective  extras casting
  • Clearing House, The  clearances
  • Clearing House, The  negative check
  • Cosprop  costumes
  • Decca Records  soundtrack
  • Dennis Davidson & Associates Public Releations (DDA)  international publicity
  • Devil's Horsemen, The (I)  horses
  • Ealing Studios International  internation sales
  • Fatts  post-production script services
  • Film Finances  completion guarantor
  • ITN Source  archive footage courtesy of
  • ITN Source/British Pathe  archive footage courtesy of
  • Kodak  motion picture film supplied by
  • Panalux  film lighting
  • Panalux  lighting equipment
  • Pinewood Stills  stills processing
  • Ray Marston Wig Studio  wigs
  • Scallywag Travel  travel agent
  • Strongroom Recording Studios  score recorded at (as The Strongroom Studios)
  • Technicolor Creative Services  digital intermediate (as Technicolor Creative Services London)
  • Technicolor  release printing
  • Videosonics Cinema Sound  re-recorded at
  • West Trend Apartments  accommodation agent


  • A-Film Distribution (2009) (Netherlands) (theatrical)
  • Sony Pictures Classics (2009) (USA) (theatrical)
  • Sony Pictures Releasing (2010) (Argentina) (theatrical)
  • Sony Pictures Releasing (2010) (Germany) (theatrical)
  • Svensk Filmindustri (SF) (2009) (Sweden) (theatrical)
  • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2009) (UK) (DVD)
  • A-Film Distribution (2009) (Benelux) (all media)
  • A-Film Home Entertainment (20??) (Netherlands) (DVD)
  • Alliance Films (2009) (Canada) (all media)
  • Audio Visual Enterprises (2009) (Greece) (all media)
  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (2009) (UK) (TV) (BBC2)
  • DeA Planeta Home Entertainment (2009) (Spain) (all media)
  • Eagle Pictures (2009) (Italy) (all media)
  • FS Film Oy (2009) (Finland) (all media)
  • Hopscotch Productions (2009) (Australia) (all media)
  • Noori Pictures (2008) (South Korea) (all media)
  • Pyramide Distribution (2009) (France) (all media)
  • R Film (2008) (Turkey) (all media)
  • Sony Pictures Classics (2009) (Brazil) (all media)
  • Sony Pictures Classics (2009) (Chile) (all media)
  • Sony Pictures Classics (2009) (Colombia) (all media)
  • Sony Pictures Classics (2009) (Mexico) (all media)
  • Sony Pictures Classics (2009) (South Africa) (all media)
  • Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2010) (Argentina) (DVD)
  • Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2009) (USA) (DVD)
  • Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2009) (USA) (DVD) (Blu-ray)



Other Stuff

Special Effects:

  • Men From Mars

Visual Effects by:

  • Kris Anderson known as digital compositor
  • Steven Bray known as digital compositor
  • Steven Bray known as title animatior
  • Simon Carr known as scene supervisor
  • Simon Carr known as visual effects supervisor
  • Simon Frame known as visual effects supervisor
  • Julian Johnson known as 3D artist
  • Sarah Juniper known as junior compositor
  • Stephanie C. Kelly known as digital compositor (as Stephanie Kelly)
  • Rick Leech known as 2D artist
  • Joe Pavlo known as lead digital artist
  • Natalie Stopford known as visual effects producer
  • Ben Turner known as digital compositor
  • Audrius Urbonavicius known as digital matte artist
  • David Vivian known as visual effects coordinator

Release Date:

  • Canada 8 September 2008 (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • Brazil 26 September 2008 (Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival)
  • Brazil 1 October 2008 (Festival Brasileiro de Cinema Universitário)
  • United Arab Emirates 13 October 2008 (Middle East International Film Festival)
  • Italy 27 October 2008 (Rome Film Festival)
  • UK 28 October 2008 (London Film Festival)
  • Ireland 7 November 2008
  • UK 7 November 2008
  • USA 9 November 2008 (American Film Market)
  • Portugal 1 January 2009
  • Spain 1 January 2009
  • Italy 9 January 2009
  • Romania 27 February 2009
  • Israel 5 March 2009
  • Australia 12 March 2009
  • Finland 27 March 2009
  • Russia 2 April 2009
  • Norway 3 April 2009
  • Turkey 4 April 2009 (Istanbul Film Festival)
  • Kazakhstan 9 April 2009
  • USA 22 April 2009 (Tribeca Film Festival)
  • France 6 May 2009
  • USA 6 May 2009 (San Francisco International Film Festival)
  • USA 22 May 2009 (limited)
  • New Zealand 28 May 2009
  • Canada 29 May 2009 (Toronto)
  • Turkey 29 May 2009
  • Netherlands 4 June 2009
  • Sweden 12 June 2009
  • Greece 23 July 2009
  • Estonia 24 July 2009
  • Latvia 31 July 2009
  • Poland 28 August 2009
  • Belgium 2 September 2009
  • Brazil 9 October 2009
  • Mexico 4 December 2009
  • Argentina 14 January 2010
  • Hungary 11 March 2010 (DVD premiere)
  • South Korea 22 April 2010
  • Switzerland 23 April 2010 (German speaking region)
  • Switzerland 6 May 2010 (French speaking region)
  • Germany 24 June 2010
  • Austria 10 September 2010

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, and smoking throughout



Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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Posted on March 30, 2012 by Harry in Movies | Tags: , , .


  1. corrosion-2
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    Easy Virtue is a very liberal adaptation of Noel Coward's play.Director Stephan Elliot (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of theDesert) has tried to make the film more contemporary and very distinctfrom the Merchant-Ivory school of film.

    The story is set in the roaring twenties where John (Ben Barnes) froman aristocratic English family marries Larita (Jessica Biel), anAmerican race driver, after a whirlwind romance in France. However hismother Veronica (Kristin Scott Thomas) is none too pleased while John'sfather Jim (colin Firth) finds a soul mate in Larita. Theserelationships, including those with John's sisters, make for a veryintriguing and entertaining hour and a half, The acting, as could beexpected from such a cast is uniformly excellent with perhaps JessicaBiel standing out a little more.

    One of Stephan Elliot's nice touches is an anachronistic use of suchsongs as Car Wash and Sex Bomb, done in a very twenties style. Theaddition of a hilarious "dog scene" is another nice touch. Fans of NoelCoward (and even Merchant-Ivory) won't be disappointed.

  2. Jamie Ward from United Kingdom
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    2008 has been a mixed bag thus far as far as character dramas areconcerned, with the majority either lacking in any interesting personasand the remainder usually lacking in anything remotely fun about theexperience. Thankfully, Easy Virtue takes residence amongst theminority of this year's examples, blending a wonderful ensemble ofcharacters and respective performers with plenty of humour, romance andpalpable charm. As a musical per se, which one could place the moviegiven the role that music plays in its narrative, the music is catchy,but always played in the background to what is going on withcharacters. So while the numbers certainly don't ever take off, theharmony created between the film's immediate interests always takeprecedence over the aesthetics, no matter how inviting and well donethose elements are implemented. Sure enough, there isn't much in theway of flaws present within Easy Virtue's two hour runtime outside ofthe fact that it can sometimes drag on in terms of plotting.Nevertheless, despite small pacing problems, Easy Virtue is awonderfully breezy, and yet hard hitting portrayal of relationships,both temporal and unconditional.

    Where each of these sources of love comes from it seems is where thewriters seem most interested in exploring; rather than sticking to thegenre's more conventional set of rules, the movie instead takes afamiliar, albeit refreshing route. Telling the story of Larita (JessicaBiel), an American race-car driver newly wed to love of her life JohnWhittaker (Ben Barnes) as she moves into her husband's inherited estatefor the holidays, Easy Virtue take the romantic comedy and heats thingsup a little. The centrepiece of the story revolves around the idea thatJohn's English aristocratic family either immediately resents Larita'spresence or soon adheres to this mind-frame. This conflict draws mostfirmly from John's mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) who takes anespecially vindictive and callous attitude towards her big-eyed, freshfaced and glamorously intimidating daughter in law.

    This relationship, although not falling far from the genre's tree ofideas and structure, nevertheless does well to keep things grounded andbelievable. Very rarely are theatrics employed to establish thecharacters' obvious confliction, and as such both grow as the moviewears on, allowing not just drama to unfold from the proceedings, butcomedy also. To say that Easy Virtue is a funny movie would be somewhatof an exaggeration; this isn't a comedy by any means, but it's not astraight forward drama or romance either. Instead director StephenElliot manages to do what so little directors of the genre actuallysucceed in implementing; a fine blend of all three ingredients whilstat the same time keeping characterisation consistent and engaging.Again these ingredients are most fully realised in the triangle ofmother/son and the new girl in his life, with each ingredient sharingenough screen time to warrant interest; Easy Virtue isn't a funny movieno… it's a funny, heart-warming and delightfully engrossing movie withplenty of intelligent drama and aesthetics.

    Nevertheless, regardless of genre tagging, and the tricky balancing actinvolved in handling such a mix, the real potency of heart present thatmakes Easy Virtue such a joy to watch is simply through its charactersand their relationships together. Mentioned above, the centrepiece ofthis endlessly amusing mix of character is the dynamic between Laritaand her new mother in law. What's most interesting about this pairinghowever doesn't necessarily always reside in their obviouslyconflictive facades, but within the thematic subtext that each bringsto the story regarding lover and son John. Dealing primarily with thecomplexities of human relationships, and specifically love, the writersexplore the different kinds of love and how they are more often thannot wrongly interpreted or received. What's most interesting about thecentral figures then is that each seems to have swapped theirtraditional roles for the others; ostensibly Larita is seen agold-digging, naïve lover who is only out for a short jog, whilst Mrs.Whittaker is instead presented as John's unconditional love source,undeniably in it for the long term. This paper thin appearance howeveris what Easy Virtue sets out to look past, and the results are bothrewarding and intriguing, giving ample substance to back up the laughs.

    Of course all of this would go to waste if given to less than capableperformers to get across not just their own dynamic personas, but therelations and unique chemistry that they share together. Featuring ahuge ensemble of recognisable British talents, along with theimpressive Jessica Biel, it would take far too long a paragraph to gothrough each individually and analyse their performances, so I willsimply cut a farily large corner and say that the entirety of the casthere do a wonderful job with each of their respective roles. Of notableinterest is the always compelling Colin Firth as a rather withdrawn andbored husband, Ben Barnes who plays youthful, energetic and distinctlynaïve John to a fine point and Kristen Scott Thomas who often parallelsher sombre role in recent French production I've Loved You So Long. Allof these performances however are just the tip of what is asurprisingly effective little treat for anyone looking for good adultfun, with plenty of intelligent humour and romance to boot. Sure enoughthere are some problems with pacing and over-emphasis on theatricaldrama at rare occasions that clash with the film's otherwiseconsistently grounded tone, but these elements are far and few betweeneach of the much more successful moments. Fun, engaging and entirelymemorable, Easy Virtue is a rarity these days, so I cannot recommend itenough.

    – A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)

  3. peter kobryn from United Kingdom
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    It is not uncommon in a film to see British "stiff upper lip"challenged and outflanked by an outsider – normally an American. As aBrit you learn to put aside any feelings of protectiveness andsensitivity and try to give the film it's fair credit when such a storyis presented to you.

    In the case of this film – Easy Virtue – this is not difficult to do asit is a well acted gem of a period piece that overcomes any of theinitial worries about stereotypes and charms and amuses all the waythrough.

    Kirstin Scott Thomas is superb as the glacial matriarch, Colin Firthdetached and louche as her distant husband, Jessica Biel believable asthe breath of fresh air ( gust of cold wind ) introduced into thefamily by the eager but naive son.

    Kris Marshall gives an amusing performance as the world weary – seen itall butler and as a whole this is a good enjoyable film.

    Taken as it is from a Noel Coward play, I am not sufficiently qualifiesto comment on how much , or little, the film has changed the spirit ofthe play – I suspect not a lot as Mr Coward delighted in ridiculing thesensibilities of the British gentry and if the stiff upper lip is goingto be ridiculed by anyone better that it is a Brit !!

  4. gerrystakes from Canada
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    From the flamboyant director of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, thissublime adaptation of Noel Coward's tragic-comic play zings withdazzling wit and impeccable timing delivered by acting of the highestorder. Who knew Jessica Biel could be so delicious as the Americaninterloping fallen woman? Among the British stars, Colin Firth providesthe counterpoint gravitas as a WWI surviving member of the "lostgeneration" who turns the tables on his insufferable wife (KristinScott Thomas) and besotted son. Easily one of the most entertainingmovies of the past several years, it deserved the genuine spontaneousstanding ovation at the world premiere screening I attended at theToronto film festival. Scott Thomas is devastating in a totallydifferent French-speaking role in "I've loved you for so long", forwhich she deserves an Oscar nomination. But see this for arch Brithumor at its finest.

  5. john_faulkes from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    Noël Coward wrote "Easy Virtue", the same summer he wrote "Hay Fever".It was produced several years later in the wake of his other greatmelodrama, "The Vortex". In his autobiography, "Present Indicative",Coward says that his object in writing the play was to present a comedyin the structure of a tragedy "to compare the déclassée woman of to-daywith the more flamboyant demi-mondaine of the 1890's," – one in whichhe deliberately attacked the "smug attitude of Larita's in-laws." Inshort, Noël Coward wrote "Meet the Parents" in 1924.

    That clash of culture, set in a time of almost identical financial boomand bust, is at the heart of Stephan Elliott's excellent adaptation.There is nothing 'liberal' or 'cheap' about it. "Easy Virtue" is allthe things a Noël Coward film should be – it's smart, sexy and shrewd.

    This is the story of a young man, John Whittaker played by Ben Barnes,who brings home a thoroughly inappropriate wife, Larita (Jessica Biel).You can sympathize with him – she's gorgeous, but basically he'sbrought a giraffe to Cambridgshire. His mother, Mrs Whittaker (in adiamond cut performance by Kristin Scott-Thomas) is not amused.Underscoring it all is a deftly sardonic performance by Colin Firth asthe emotionally absent head of the household, Mr Whittaker. Whathappens to them all is a tragedy of time and place, but, like the fateof the family pet, it's also hilarious and satisfying.

    Stephan Elliott was a brilliant choice for this film. Coward was theconsummate inside outsider – the son of a clerk who mingled witharistocracy. Stephan Elliott is an Australian living in London – movingin the rare circle of celebrity and wealth. They are both masters ofcomic subversion.

    Elliott has been true to Coward's desire to present a thoroughlycontemporary film. His soundtrack, score and the subtle use of specialeffects all show us that this is a film to be taken lightly, while thecharacters played by Colin Firth and Kristin Scott-Thomas give us theweight and emotional resonance to let us know that they are serious.

    But the film belongs to Biel. She delivers all the spirit and energy ofan American snowboarder, with all the elegant sophistication of an oldtime screen siren. She is the new world 'blowing in' to the old and istremendously sympathetic with it.

    Add to that Ben Barnes' growing strength as an actor, and immenseappeal to younger audiences and you have a film that will introduce awhole new generation to the romance of period films, while satisfyingolder fans that there is still life in the genre yet.

  6. simona gianotti from Italy
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    Brilliant, sparkling, joyful and sad, passionate and exciting, sweetand sour, elegant, refined and superbly ungraceful at the same time:contrasting adjectives are very fit for this captivating movie, whichreally hits the mark in a superb way. No flaw is to be found: theconstruction is solid and yet dynamic, highly-range acting is offeredby the whole cast (but let me define Kristin Scott Thomas as sublime).The director creates a really enjoyable product, capable as it is ofgaining the favour of the audience and to satisfy the viewer, both froman aesthetic and emotional point of view. The sound and authenticBritish humour stirring from the beginning to the end, makes one laughbut also think about the necessity to overcome a stuffy traditionalistattitude which make look back to a fossilized but no longer validpast,in order to let the new enter the scene, with all its dramaticpotential of change. All certainties are questioned and prove to bedramatically frail. The conflict between the traditional Englishsobriety and self-control and the non-conformist American way of lifegives rise to funny but also thoughtful moments of tension, subtlyunderlined by witty dialogues and emotionally engaging musical anddancing exchanges. A movie to be seen, heard, and enjoyed in everysingle part.

  7. sweet_lady_genevieve from United Kingdom
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    John Whittaker (Barnes) is travelling and falls in love with beautifulAmerican divorcée, Larita (Biel). After spontaneously getting married,John brings her back to his stately home in England, where althoughmany warm to her, she is largely frowned upon – especially by hisformidable mother, Veronica (Scott Thomas), who makes her stay asuncomfortable as possible. Based on the original play by Noel Coward,'Easy Virtue' encompasses sharp wit, romance and drama; and although itis set in 1920s England, it is far from the typical period drama thatmight be expected. The soundtrack is slightly risky in places with itsrearrangement of contemporary songs to period-music; but this can beoverlooked for everything else the film has to offer. Firth suppliesbrilliant one-liners as the war-weary husband of Veronica. Biel has acaptivating presence, bringing sexiness and classic Hollywood glamourto the screen; whilst Thomas, in total opposition, plays thestiff-upper-lipped English mother-in-law to perfection. A thoroughlyenjoyable British comedy.

  8. C-Younkin from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    Jessica Biel earns major respect here for taking on a very ambitioustask. "Easy Virtue" marks the first time she headlines her own movie,acting alongside powerhouses like Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth.It's based on a stage play by Noel Coward, which coincidentally wasfirst produced in New York in 1925. Usually I hear the words "stageplay from 1925" and I want to quickly build and jump into a timemachine but the movie is not only painless but it's absolutely lovableat the same time.

    Biel plays Larita, a young American widow in the 1920's making herliving as a motorist. She's the first woman ever to win the Grand Prixin Monte Carlo, a feminist long before her time, which attracts theattention of Brit John Whittaker (Ben Barnes). It isn't long before thetwo are married and he's taking her home to his family's country manor.The matriarch of the house is Veronica Whittaker (Kristin ScottThomas), an icey, uppity, bitter woman who never lived much of a lifeof her own and sees Larita as a gold digger and a whore before she evengets to the house. Larita can tell that her mother-in-law doesn't likeher and tries very hard to adapt but only alienates herself further inthe process. John's father (Colin Firth), a Colonel in World War 1, isthe only one who cuts her any slack. He can't stand his family'sstuffiness either and sees Larita as a kindred spirit. A battle ofone-ups-man-ship soon takes over the house as Veronica desperatelytries to get rid of Larita, who refuses to back down.

    The point of the play was a counteraction to British smugness anddirector Stephan Elliott, who co-wrote the screenplay with SheridanJobbins, keeps that basic principle intact. In Larita, summer has foundits unlikely hero, a woman who goes by the beat of her own drum, has astrong sense of self, and a backbone. Biel is dazzling in the leadrole, contributing a strong will, good comic timing, and an uninhibitedplayfulness that makes her even sexier. When Larita tangos in front ofthe family, you can feel the "F You" that she's laying down. KristinScott Thomas is perfect as her uptight and scheming foil and ColinFirth is a pro at delivering witty quips as well as digging deeper tocommunicate the things that haunt the character, whether they be WorldWar 1 or his own family.

    The one-liners come fast and frequent. There are also some very wickedbigger laughs, most of which involve Larita's un-candid sexual nature.A panty-less can-can during a war widows revue is a howler. Another biglaugh involving a dog will make animal lovers cringe for sure. "EasyVirtue" is a comedy that works, one of the funniest I've seen all yearlong. The costume design is very good and the manor looks like a niceenough place to spend 2 hours of your time. It's only when Elliottturns on the musical soundtrack, with tunes old enough to make FrankSinatra look and sound like Eminem, that the movie really starts toshow its age. But no matter. If you're looking for a smart comedy withsome really excellent performances, "Easy Virtue" is truly virtuous.

  9. James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    When I recently reviewed "Relative Values" I pointed out that it wasthe first English-language feature film to have been based on a NoelCoward play since the 1960s. That film was not, in my view, a greatsuccess, being little more than an examination of outdated socialconventions that no-one cares about any more, and I came to theconclusion that Coward has largely been ignored by modern film-makersbecause he was very much a figure of his own age with little to offerthe modern cinema-goer.

    "Easy Virtue", however, has convinced me that I was wrong on thispoint, even though it is an even older play than "Relative Values",dating from the twenties rather than the fifties. The action takesplace around 1928/1929. (References to the First World War havingstarted "fourteen years ago" suggest the earlier date; references tothe Valentine's Day Massacre, which occurred on 14th February 1929,suggest the latter). Like "Relative Values" the film is set in astately home and concerns the romantic lives of the English upperclasses. John, the son and heir of the aristocratic Whittaker family,has married a female American racing driver named Larita, whom he metwhile touring on the continent.

    The film explores the differing reactions of John's family to hismarriage. His mother, Veronica, is a formidable reactionary whobelieves passionately in keeping up the traditions of her class. Shedisapproves strongly of Larita, who has no intention of fitting in withthe traditional country-house lifestyle. She is not keen on riding, forexample, and objects to fox hunting on moral grounds. Her worst crimein Veronica's eyes, however, is to be poor. Although from the midnineteenth century onwards it was by no means unknown for youngAmerican women to marry into the British nobility, most of these womenwere drawn from America's own aristocracy of the super-rich, and Laritais not a Rockefeller or Vanderbilt but the daughter of a Detroit carmechanic. The Whittakers are desperately in need of cash to maintaintheir stately home, and Veronica has long cherished the hope that Johnwill marry Sarah, the daughter of their wealthy neighbour Lord Hurst.Even after his marriage, Veronica keeps hinting to John that it is hisduty to divorce Larita and marry Sarah for the good of the family'swealth.

    John's father Jim is very different in character, having been deeplyscarred by his experiences in the First World War, when most of the menunder his command were killed. Although the film is in form a comedy ofmanners it also has more serious undertones. The 1920s are sometimesthought of as a hedonistic interval between the war-torn 1910s and theeconomically depressed 1930s, but beneath the brittle surface gaiety ofthe Jazz Age was a deep sense of loss for the generation that had diedon the battlefields and a deep sense of foreboding for the future.(Coward was not the only author to explore these feelings; they alsoappear in the novels of writers like Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell).After the war Jim disappeared to Paris, where he led a life ofdebauchery. Although Veronica tracked him down and persuaded him toreturn home, he no longer relishes the life of a country gentleman. Hedresses scruffily, is frequently unshaven and prefers working as ablacksmith or mechanic in his workshop to more traditional countrypursuits. He welcomes his son's marriage to Larita, whom he sees as akindred spirit.

    Prior to this one I had never seen any of Jessica Biel's films; I onlyknew her as a Hollywood beauty from the gossip columns. She is verygood here as Larita, a spirited heroine who defends herself valiantlyagainst her monstrous mother-in-law and brings a refreshing breath offresh air into the closed world of the aristocracy. I did, however,think she was perhaps too young for the role. The script implies thatLarita, a widow whose first husband died mysteriously, is considerablyolder than John, but Ben Barnes (better here than he was in "PrinceCaspian") is actually a year older than Biel. The best performances,however, come from Colin Firth and Kristin Scott-Thomas as theill-matched couple Jim and Veronica. Although they are the same age(both were born in 1960), Firth looks much younger than Scott-Thomas inthis film, perhaps emphasising that Veronica's ideas are those of thepast whereas Jim represents the future.

    Despite some underlying serious themes, "Easy Virtue" is still acomedy, and the script is brilliantly funny. Most of the humour derivesfrom the exchanges between the acid-tongued Veronica and Larita, whocan give as good as she gets, and their constant war of one-upmanship.Asked to ride to hounds, Larita does so on a motorbike rather than ahorse; there is a running joke about Veronica's attempts to exploitLarita's allergies by using flowers to make her sneeze. Veronica'sannoying little dog comes to an unfortunate end. (Chihuahua-loversshould avoid this film and watch "Legally Blonde" instead). There isalso some hilariously inappropriate use of music, including more recentsongs like "Sex Bomb" performed in best 1920s style. This must be oneof the best comedies (indeed, one of the best films) of 2008. 8/10

  10. Brian B-2
    30 Mar 2012, 2:48 pm

    I enjoyed this movie a fair bit more than the average viewer, ifratings are to be believed.

    This very British film is a nice switch from the typical Hollywoodromantic comedy, and does not attempt to squeeze within theconventional mold which runs from Four weddings and a Funeral throughLove Actually and beyond. The wry influence of the original Noel Cowardplay becomes fresh again decades later.

    Colin Firth is especially adept underplaying the dissolute father inlaw. He is just there, being, not acting.Totally believable andconvincing. When his character is illuminated in a brief soliloquy twothirds of the way through the movie, he is brilliant, and without theham fisted exposition of so much modern writing, the entire familystory is explained, and powerful social commentary on topics fromhereditary lands to fox hunting to war to social decay to euthanasiaare digested without chewing.

    A great example of "Show, not tell".

    Jessica Biel is beautiful, here as always, and is never requested to domore than she is capable of. I particularly liked how the film makersdid not beat us over the head with her sexuality, going with a mutedsensuality most of the movie, except in key scenes where her full poweris unleashed to excellent effect.

    Kristin Scott Thomas is well cast as the domineering disapprovingmother in law, and the British supporting players are treats, though Ithought Ben Barnes as the love interest lacked the presence to hold hisown in this cast.

    We could use more movies like this.

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