Easy Virtue (2008)

Easy Virtue posterCan we all get along?  That poignant plea is ever applicable,  from L.A to all corners of the world, today or years past.   And when it comes to families, which one doesn’t have its ups and downs?  So, since the answer is obvious, might as well make comedies out of the situation.

Based on the play by Noel Coward, and lavishly adorned with his songs, credits to the Easy Virtue Orchestra, the film is otherwise re-written to appeal to a contemporary audience.

The story takes place some years after the First World War, in the 1920’s.   The eldest son of an English aristocratic family, John Whittaker (Ben Barnes, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), comes home from abroad and brings back his new wife Larita, a race car driver (Jessica Biel, The Illusionist).  What ensue are battles on the home front between the audacious new bride and the stuffy and snobby matriarch of the family, Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas, I’ve Loved You So Long).  The main spark of their explosive confrontations:  Larita is American.  And Larita does not disappoint.  She is exactly what Mrs. Whittaler expects her to be, and some more:  a gale of forbidden ideas and scandalous history.  For her performance, Kristin Scott Thomas received two Best Actress nominations.

The most intriguing character is Mr. Whittaker, played by Colin Firth (When Did You Last See Your Father, The Girl With The Pearl Earring, Pride and Prejudice).  A veteran of the Great War, Mr. Whittaker is a disillusioned man, aloof, perceptive, and cynical all at the same time.   He is the only one in the family extending a welcoming hand to Larita, and stands by his new found comrade in the domestic clash of cultures.   The climax of the story comes near the end in an enthralling scene of the two tango dancing.  Naturally, what follows is just anti-climatic.

Easy Virtue 1

The Whittakers live in a humongous mansion on acres of lush grounds for generations, reminiscence of Darcy’s Pemberley (yes, Colin Firth again), and for Mrs. Whittaker especially, no short supplies of pride or prejudice.  Whether it’s intentional of the director or not, at one scene in the Whittakers ballroom, I see Darcy, poised and tall.  But director Stephan Elliott and co-writer Sheridan Jobbins are no Jane Austen.  This comedy of manners may appear to be a burlesque of the traditional upper-class English family, but it lacks the depth of characterization and cathartic effect of an Austen work.

And that’s alright.

Easy Virtue may be frothy, loud, and ephemeral, but it is effective in delivering some witty lines, great comedic timing, some cool cinematography, and fine performance not just from the main characters, but the supporting roles.  I must mention the butler Furber (Kris Marshall), and the two Whittaker sisters Hilda (Kimberley Nixon) and Marion (Katherine Parkinson).  They have added much delight to the film.  A fun ride all the way.

I have not seen Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas together in a movie since The English Patient (1996).  And truth be told, they are the reason for me to see this one.

Easy Virtue is currently released on limited screens across North America.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

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Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

6 thoughts on “Easy Virtue (2008)”

  1. I haven’t seen I’ve Loved you So Long yet, so I need to add that and this to my queue. I’ve seen P & P too many times to count and count Firth among my joys of life.

    KST has a face I get lost in, so even if the movie isn’t stellar, it has both of them, and it sounds like a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see Americans make loud asses of themselves with Brits, so I look forward to that too.

    Nice review!

    Ruth,

    EV is currently released on the big screen, don’t know when the DVD will come out. As for ILYSL, you shouldn’t miss it. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s vivid proof that KST should not be type cast. If you’d like to know more about it, click on the link in my post for my review, or the first picture on my sidebar. CF’s WDYLSYF is excellent too.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Arti
    (Just learned that the EV DVD is out now in N. Am)

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  2. oops it sounds like it’s not out on dvd yet :0)

    Ellen,

    I saw it at a first run indi/art house theatre. I think Seattle would have such places. It’s pure frothy, light-hearted fun. Good for the holidays.

    Ellen: I’m editing myself here. The DVD has come out now for N. Am.

    Arti

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  3. Hi Arti – thank you for this review! – this is on my short list to see [who can resist Colin Firth in anything] – so glad that you found it so enjoyable – I agree about I’ve Loved you So Long – just a lovely movie, beautifully told, and Kristin Scott Thomas is really quite amazing – an incredible talent, and a movie everyone should see…
    Take care Arti,
    Deb

    Yes Deb, both CF and KST are great talents. After watching EV, I just have to re-watch The English Patient. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. What a treat to hear about this! sometimes, I think we’ve seen so many movies and then up pops something like this one! Oh yeah, I’m headed to Netflix in a minute…thanks, Arti!

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  5. I can’t whomp up much enthusiasm for trying this one, but I hadn’t seen, nor read your review of “I’ve Loved You So Long”. I just found the review, and will be giving that a try.

    I do think this film might be one Mom would enjoy. I’ve been so far outside the film world I don’t even have a DVD player and it may be time to get one for us. I’m seriously thinking about dumping television entirely ~ I could use the money I spend on cable for richer, more satisfying viewing.

    By the way, I do have The Girl With the Pearl Earring now. One of these days I’ll have time to watch it!

    Linda,

    I’ve Loved You So Long is one movie you shouldn’t miss, even if you don’t watch any all these years. Kristin Scott Thomas is cast in drastically different roles compared to Easy Virtue. If you’re just going to pick one, go for ILYSL, hands down. As for GWAPE, I think you’ll really enjoy the book, which is much richer and deeper in the storytelling.

    ahhh… summer! A great time to catch up on everything… I need to do some catching up on my blog reading too. Appreciate your stopping by!

    Arti

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