I caught Easy Virtue on cable the other night. Another little gem, a la one of my favorite cable finds, Miss Pettigrew. It isn’t exactly surprising that a period comedy with Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas should be fun to watch. What is a very pleasant discovery is Jessica Biel, who easily inhabits the heroine and owns the movie. I haven’t seen her in much, but I will be keeping an eye out for her in future.
Two other movies where she made an impression on me were The Illusionist, with Ed Norton, which, no fault of Biel’s, I always seem to confuse with the Hugh Jackman/Christian Bale The Prestige. Leave it to stupid Hollywood to put out two period-piece magic/deception movies on top of one another. Both movies are worth a look, however.
I also recently caught her in Next, with Nicholas Cage. The movie was interesting to watch, even if the plot was too laboriously incomprehensible. But Biel and Cage had true chemistry. She somehow managed to temper Cage’s never-ending Elvis intonations into a couple worth rooting for, in spite of the crazy script. She is undeniably gorgeous, but there is something “real” about Biel, which makes you like her instantly.
But back to Easy Virtue. Besides the great period styling and acting, the other thing the movie slyly does is re-arrange more recent music (Sex Bomb, Car Wash) in the style of the post WWI period, mixing it with more contemporary-to-the-period tunes like Let’s Misbehave. Strangely enough, they work perfectly together. The movie is almost a musical at times and times haven’t changed that much.
At first the mood of the film is comedy, with some very funny and acerbic scenes. But there is an undercurrent of unease, akin to the shell-shocked malaise of Colin Firth’s character. Growing up in the post-Viet Nam era, I heard many tragic stories of soldiers coming home disillusioned with their country after that experience. What we tend to forget is that all wars are hell, and the people who lived through post-WW1 dealt with the same issues as soldiers of any era. Life was not easy for rich or poor, British or American.
The overall result of watching this film is not melancholy, however. You will remember the characters, and their stories may ring true and even deeply in some cases, but it is also quite fun – especially Biel and Firth’s tango near the close of the picture. If you get a chance, don’t miss it. And don’t miss Biel, who is now on my personal list of “to watch” actors. Happily, she seems to have a lot of projects on the horizon.