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Review: Easy Virtue

Jessica Biel does Noël Coward!
By TOM MEEK  |  May 27, 2009
2.0 2.0 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Easy Virtue

Jessica Biel stretches beyond her usual bimbo persona to attain some class in Stephan Elliott's adaptation of the Noël Coward play (which was made as a silent in 1928 by Alfred Hitchcock). Biel's brassy American divorcée and Grand Prix racer, Larita, could pass as the younger sister of Kim Basinger's Lynn Bracken in LA Confidential.

But the actress's sass and range go to waste, mostly because Elliot (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) shoots a period piece that's more of a question mark as it tries to capture the essence of the era. Coward's play mirrored the anti-American sentiment of post-WWI Britain, with Larita set against Kristin Scott Thomas's Veronica Whittaker, her dour, Brit mother-in-law.

Veronica is out to protect the family estate from the Yank golddigger her impetuous son (Ben Barnes) has married. This low-key catfight gets lost in off-kilter pacing as darker matters emerge. But though Elliott doesn't make it easy, Biel manages to put her new virtues on display.

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