Easy Virtue
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: +2 1/2

Jessica Biel, Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas. Comedy/drama. Written by Sheridan Jobbins, Stephan Elliott. Directed by Stephan Elliott.

FILM SYNOPSIS: John Whittaker, a young Englishman, falls madly in love with Larita, a glamorous American sportswoman, and they marry impetuously. †However, when the couple returns to the family home, his mother, Mrs. Whittaker, takes an instant dislike to her new daughter-in-law. †Larita tries her best to fit in but fails to tiptoe through the minefield laid by her mother-in-law.† A battle of wits ensues and sparks soon fly with†Mrs. Whittaker manipulating every situation to undermine the lively American, while Larita remains frustratingly calm and engineers sassy counterattacks. †Before long, Mrs. Whittaker starts to work on John and Laritaís love for one another and in a grand finale, where the secrets from her past are revealed, Larita finally makes a break for freedom from the suffocating house.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Itís a very lookable film with its captivating cinematography, stylish set design, stimulating score and pleasant pacing. Director Stephan Elliott (Eye of the Beholder) easily moves the narrative from lighthearted drawing room comedy to a more dramatic look at the dynamics of family life. I also appreciated the fact that this moderned-up Noel Coward 1920s English period piece managed to avoid crudeness and profanity. And I congratulate Jessica Biel for taking on a role where she actually gets to act. Alas, sheís not really up to the challenge. I kept thinking of who would have brought a more charismatic brashness to the role. A 30-something Katherine Hepburn, or a 30-something Meryl Streep, or even a 30-something Renee Zellweger, who could have combined her Chicago Roxie Hart with Miss Potterís Beatrix and brightened up the screen. Unfortunately, Ms. Hepburn is no longer with us and Ms. Streep and Ms. Zellweger are no longer 30-something.

Two things are needed with a script that features comic character study Ė perceptive and witty dialogue (given here) and the right casting of the lead role (oops). Still, itís not a bad movie and itís a pleasure to view a movie where entertainment doesnít rely on car chases and CGI effects. Not that thereís anything wrong with those film elements. Itís just that I suspect weíre in for a lot of them this next month or so. Easy Virtue may be one of the last opportunities for a while for us see a movie where characters banter with abandon while a Jeeves-like butler serves the cocktails.

DVD Alternative: Jeeves & Wooster. P. G. Wodehouseís celebrated comic adventures of a befuddled English gentleman and his wise gentlemanís gentleman. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie star, and the entire four-year English series is available on DVD. If you canít find it, come on over. I have the whole series. Just bring the Earl Grey.

To read about or order my new book, MOVIES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE REALLY, REALLY BAD, go to our Home Page.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Summary
Crude Language: A couple of barraged verbal crudities.
Obscene Language: A couple of minor expletives.
Profanity: None
Violence: One scene has a bit of dark humor as a little annoying Chihuahua gets sat upon. No more Chihuahua.
Sexual Intercourse: A couple of slight sexual situations between the newly weds, but the camera discretely departs before the scenes become too adventuresome.
Nudity: Doing a can-can for charity, one of the ladies, thinking itís an acceptable tradition, performs without her undergarments; mostly we see startled reactions, but there is a quick shot of both front and back; the scene is played for laughs and is over quickly.
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: The sexual banter is brief and mild.
Drug Abuse: Most smoke, everyone drinks socially, some more so.
Other: None
Running Time: 93 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

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