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Easy Virtue (5/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 93 minutes
OK for children.
As I was watching this, I kept saying to
myself, “This should really be good.” It’s got snappy dialogue; it
in the 1920s faithfully, at least as far as the costumes and locations
are concerned; it’s got a beautiful star in Jessica Biel, and good
actors in the other parts. But I found myself uninvolved. There is too
much dialogue and the dialogue isn’t that compelling.
Based on Noel Coward’s 1924 play (written when
he was only 23) and first made into a silent film by a youthful Alfred
Hitchcock, this is the first attempt to bring it to the screen since
Alfred’s version in 1928.
I saw Coward’s “Private Lives” with Elizabeth
Taylor and Richard Burton at the Wilshire Theater a couple of decades
ago and was mesmerized, but I’m sure the acting had a lot to do with my
enjoyment (at one point Taylor is lying on a Chaise Lounge and Burton
sitting next to her, talking. At the time of the play, they were not
married in real life. During the conversation, he casually put his hand
on her breast while they continued talking about something entirely
unrelated to sex. It brought down the house.)
Unfortunately, this really isn’t a comedy.
John Whittaker (Ben Barnes) brings his new bride, Larita (Biel)
home to the family palatial home and his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas)
and father (Colin Firth). Mother takes an instant dislike to Larita, as
does the rest of the family except for Mr. Whittaker, who is suffering
pangs of guilt because of what happened to him in The Great War.
The family is hateful to Larita, but she
perseveres, mostly with tart dialogue. She is nothing if not a trooper.
But the thing goes on and on. It seemed much
longer than 93 minutes. One admires Larita for hanging in there, but
wishes that she’d get on with it with this dysfunctional family.
As to the performances, they are all pretty
good. Firth stands out from the others. Biel is not bad, but I
felt that there was something missing in her interpretation, like normal
human feeling. She was just too self-possessed in an extremely awkward
and uncomfortable situation.
The best way I can summarize this is