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The Independent Critic

Colin Firth, Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Barnes
Stephan Elliott
Stephan Elliott, Sheridan Jobbins
Noel Coward (play)
Rated PG-13
97 Mins.
Sony Pictures
Deleted Scenes, Blooper Reel, New York Premiere Featurette, Director/Writer Commentary
Available in English, Spanish & Portuguese

 "Easy Virtue" Review 
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Are you sitting down?

Jessica Biel can act.

No, really. I'm not kidding. I mean, sure, she's hinted at it before. However, in "Easy Virtue," based upon the play by Noel Coward, Biel acts and actually acts well as a young American named Larita brought home by her British beau John (Ben Barnes) to meet a rather nightmarish family that includes a bitter mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), a depressed father (Colin Firth) and John's equally intriguing sisters (Katherine Parkinson and Kimberley Nixon).

Larita is a bit of a rarity for a film set in the 1920's, a ragingly successful young woman who is an auto racer who has just captured the Monaco Grand Prix. She is, indeed, VERY American with her vibrance, humor, vivaciousness and assertive nature that doesn't always rub well with John's family.

Biel, at least in this film, seems to have figured out how to perfectly blend her beauty with her brains into a character who is both deeply felt while not needing to hide her outward beauty. Larita clearly is the best thing to ever happen to John, and Biel gives her an unapologetic aura that is simultaneously funny and heartwarming. It is admittedly somewhat surprising that Biel pulls off this portrayal so completely, but indeed she brings Larita wonderfully to life.

Neither Firth nor Scott Thomas are required to stretch much here, yet they both dependably flesh out their characters far beyond what appears to spring from the written words of screenwriters Stephan Elliott and Sheridan Jobbins. Scott Thomas is a fine mix of crusty jadedness with maternal protectiveness, while Firth gives "Easy Virtue" its emotional core with a nicely layered turn as an older gent who is unhappily married and still, slightly secretly, recovering from the emotional damage of a past war.

"Easy Virtue" is your fairly typical British comedy, a film more reliant on verbal wit and jousting than overt expressions of laugh out loud comedy. Still, in director Stephan Elliott's hands "Easy Virtue" brings alive Noel Coward's stage play and finds a comfortable place on film.

Beautifully lensed by Martin Kenzie, "Easy Virtue" also benefits from the original music of Marius De Vries and John Beard's excellent production design intertwining an aging manor with the electricity of the film's decade.

"Easy Virtue" arrives on home video September 15th, 2009.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic