Monday, June 22, 2009

Movies I'm Watching: Easy Virtue

I just got back from the Rialto on Summerfield Ave., in Santa Rosa, our local movie house. I saw Easy Virtue (2009), starring Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth, Ben Barnes, Kris Marshall, and others, directed by Stephan Elliott, an adaptation of an early Noel Coward play. I enjoyed this. Good acting by all the principals, and a very strong supporting cast. It was both poignant and hilarious--mostly funny--with the humor given its edge in large part by contrast with underlying darker currents. Beautifully filmed and wittily edited. Visually, this was exciting to watch. Both the humor and the drama rely on subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) juxtapositions, often of fierce-looking stuffed trophy animals in the big house, against elements of the story line. These (almost like an inanimate Greek chorus) are mostly used to highlight and comment upon the sparring between the Whittaker family and Larita Whittaker (the Jessica Biel character), a breath of fresh air blowing through the place with rather too much force--although she turns out to be far deeper than her antagonists would ever have thought possible. Wonderful use of reflected images--notably Mrs. Whittaker ominously in the black billiard ball; Mr. Whittaker (both right side up and upside down) in a spoon; the whole family in a serving dish; in window panes--most memorably Larita and her husband in two panes of the same window, but symbolically in the very different worlds they rapidly come to understand they live in (love and lust have blinded them temporarily)--the panes they inhabit separated by a stone column. Kris Marshall is a stand-out among the supporting players as the butler. Recommended.

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