Welcome to the movies at PS News.
Each week, PS News’s film critic Victor Rebikoff will highlight the latest offerings from the silver screen and share his expert commentary for our information and guidance.
Director: Stephan Elliott, Hopscotch Films, Rated PG 93, Minutes
Australian film maker, Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) makes a wonderful return to directing with Easy Virtue, a light-hearted re-enactment of a play penned in 1925 by master English playwright, Noel Coward.
The story is set in the beautiful English countryside during the 1920’s.
John (Ben Barnes, Chronicles of Narnia-Prince Caspian), who is from an aristocratic English family marries Larita (Jessica Biel), an American racing driver after a whirlwind romance in France.
John’s domineering mother (played by outstanding English actress Kristin Scott Thomas, The English Patient) is immediately disapproving of the vivacious American, while John's father (Colin Firth) appears to have found a companion in Larita’s flamboyant approach to life.
Adding to a somewhat complicated plot are two hidden secrets.
The first is that Larita was instrumental in the death of her first husband, which she conceals from her new family, while the second is that John’s family is in serious debt (a fact John is unaware of) and is seriously considering selling their stately home.
Such exposés (including the accidental death of the family’s beloved pet dog), and a number of clashes revolving around cultural differences and power relationships (such as those involving Veronica and her American daughter-in-law), make for a very interesting and sparkling hour and a half of viewing.
Elliott, who co-wrote the script with Sheridan Jobbins, catches the spirit of Coward's fierce critique on Victorian society and its hypocrisies.
He gives Easy Virtue a modern twist by providing a satirical insight into a family of English aristocrats that is out of touch with modernity - even adding modern songs such as ‘Car Wash’ in to a 1920’s style arrangement.
Easy Virtue is both a visual and verbal delight.
The acting is good, with perhaps Jessica Biel and Kristin Scott Thomas providing stand out performances.
Scott Thomas in particular is magnificent as the daunting mother-in-law.
Two additional roles worth mentioning are those of Colin Firth who plays John’s father (and the bored husband of Veronica) and that of Kris (‘Death at a Funeral’) Marshall, as the wily butler who is consistently amusing and a most unlikely servant.
Their interactions with Jessica Biel are highly entertaining, as is Biel herself as exemplified in a scene where her character Larita gets to humiliate all three of the family’s women (John’s mother and both sisters) at their carefully planned garden party.
Elliott has returned to the screen with a refreshing and satirical film that takes the stuffing out of the English aristocracy and is certainly a different take on Meet the Parents.
This movie should appeal to many - and would surely be applauded by the great Noel Coward.
VIC'S VERDICT: 3 ½ Rubber Stamps