"Easy Virtue" brings British humor to Rome fest

Mon Oct 27, 2008 1:51pm EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters Life!) - "Easy Virtue," a liberal adaptation of Noel Coward's play on the hypocrisy of English high society in the 1920s, brought a bubbly dose of humor to the drama-heavy Rome film festival, where it was warmly applauded on Monday.

A British production directed by Australian Stephan Elliott, the film tells the story of a free-spirited and glamorous female American race driver, Larita, who marries the son of an English aristocratic family after a whirlwind romance.

When they return to the Victorian family home, Larita, played by Jessica Biel, instantly finds herself on a collision course with her mother-in-law, a caustic Kristin Scott Thomas.

Colin Firth is also in the cast as Scott Thomas' withdrawn husband still haunted by the horrors of World War One.

While the "meet the parents" theme is hardly original, "Easy Virtue" builds on the wit of Coward's play by setting the psychological warfare between the two women against the backdrop of old-fashioned and decadent England in the post-war years.

It also turns the period film genre on its head with fast-paced, sassy dialogues and funny scenes that give the movie a light touch even when things in the stuffy countryside mansion start to get serious.

Elliott, who won critical acclaim with his quirky 1994 film "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," returned to directing after a nine-year absence following a skiing accident that nearly killed him and his own disenchantment with the film business.

"LIKE A MACHINEGUN"   Continued...