Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday June 14 - Easy Virtue, Varsity Cineplex

Noel Coward, author of Easy Virtue

Easy Virtue was originally a play written by Sir Noel Coward. He was born on December 16 1899, and died on March 26 1973. He had a prolific career, and one on the things he did so well was to protray the English upper-middle class. This play is set early in the last century, and shows so clearly challenges that class was facing: and how hard it is to move on.

As is said in the film based on Easy Virtue, directed by Stephan Elliott, their life style was "smoke and mirrors". They owned land and property, but hadn't the income to sustain their lifestyle. Mrs. Whittaker, Kristin Scott Thomas, is desperately trying to hold on to the life she has known, and doesn't want to hear Larita, Jessica Biel, her unwelcome American daughter-in-law, tell her that life is changing and everyone has to move on. When Larita helpfully suggests a positive course of action, Mrs. Whittaker makes it quite clear that she is not interested. When Larita suggests that Mrs. Whittaker's son, John Whittaker, Ben Barnes, find a job, Mrs. Whittaker is incredulous and asks what he could possibly do. The contrast between the way of thinking of the English and the Americans is made quite clear. England, and Europe, look backwards and wants to do things as they always have been done, America looks forward and seeks to try a new, better path. Time, of course, has moved on, and many of the huge, old houses are now part of the National Trust, and the upper-middle class has had to learn how to work and run businesses. Even Queen Elizabeth shows Buckingham Palace to the public, and the princes are in the armed forces.

On the surface, a rather shallow comedy based on laughing at the difference between the English upper-middle class and a young, American woman. The cast is good, and the film is entertaining, but it shows how perceptive was Noel Coward of the painful changes that were taking place in his society. In his time, the two young women dancing the "Can-can" would have been scandelous, as would Larita being a race driver. His plays were considered risque, but nowadays nothing is either scandelous or risque. Almost seems we have lost something, or perhaps we have found a more realistic way of looking at life.

I am a fan of Colin Firth, and found it a delight to watch him tango with his American daughter-in-law. He is not a great dancer, but that doesn't really matter. His smoldering good-looks do it for him. Another great moment in the history of film, as far as I am concerned!

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