Below The Salt And Worth The Lot O'them. Feb 6, 2011
At first glance you might think you are simply in for a frothy 1920s bit of fun. Well "Easy Virtue" is all that but much more. It's a 'let-rip' expose into class snobbery which in turn causes repression, dull lives and malice.
The flawed heroine Larita (Jessica Biel), an American racing car driver, cordon bleu chef and fun-loving beauty, marries John Whittaker (Ben Barnes) and is taken back to his family's country pile sitting among acres and acres of inherited land. Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas) is openly hostile, flanked by her equally unpleasant daughters, Hilda (Kimberley Nixon) and Marion (Katherine Parkinson) who deem the new family member as well below the salt. But the man of the house (Colin Firth) recognises Larita's free spirit and lack of pretense and becomes a quiet ally, as does the staff, led by the butler Furber (deliciously played by Kris Marshall who always seems to give a perky, exhilarating performance). John, newly married, seems torn between his ornate lifestyle which will be his inheritance, and his exciting bride, and the appearance of his old girlfriend Sarah (Charlotte Riley) exacerbates his problem.
The scenes are fresh, enhanced by beautiful sets, and the pace is fast and economical, preventing any skerrick of boredom creeping in. Poppy the family dog (Fizz) stars in the first half until she and Larita clash in a moment of fate which gives us one of the funniest scenes in the film.
Colin Firth is droolingly handsome as the bored and gentle Mr. Whittaker, and Jessica Biel is luminous as the tightly-boned and luxuriously fleshy-faced, gorgeous flapper ever to descend upon a tight-lipped gaggle of aristocrats. She has to become a major star: she lights up the screen. There seems to be nothing missing in this film - the scenery is luscious, the camerawork a joy of clarity, the actors are all excellent and speak clearly (something not mandatory in films of today) and the direction by Stephan Elliott is adroitly handled with flair.