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Easy Virtue Movie Review, Jessica Biel

Easy Virtue: Sparkling Cast Can't Help the Center Star

Easy Virtue, a film adaptation of Noel Coward's jazzy 1920s-set play, pits the old traditions of Europe's landowning gentry against the brash modernity that America had come to symbolize. The old guard is represented by a wealthy British family led by the brittle matriarch Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas). When her son, John Whittaker (Ben Barnes), marries a sexy race car driver named Larita (Jessica Biel) several years his elder, the entire family is thrown into a tizzy.

Once Biel's character arrives at the Whittaker home she's meant to represent a vibrant and mesmerizing new way of doing things that is utterly offensive to this family so steeped in tradition. But alas, Ms. Biel doesn't quite have what it takes to hold down the center of a film like this and the whole endeavor suffers. To see why,


The cast includes the kind of immensely talented actors who can take on the old-fashioned, quick and witty dialogue with one hand tied behind their backs. Biel tries to keep up and at times she succeeds, but most of the time she simply appears to be swimming upstream. As you might expect, Kristin Scott Thomas deliciously inhabits her icy character with ease and delivers each line as a stinging backhanded compliment. Colin Firth plays her long-suffering husband still hurting from memories of war, and delivers an incredibly funny yet soulful performance. Even Ben Barnes, who is handsome but stiff in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, displays pizzazz as the prodigal son returning home.

As the movie clicks along, though, more and more is asked of Biel as she navigates the cruel and ruthless landmines set out for her by her new mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and she's not quite able to rise to the occasion. As the tone shifts in the final act from a comedy of manners to a darker drama, the talented ensemble cast does all it can to prop the movie up, but the center can't hold in the end.

Photos courtesy of Sony Picture Classics

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lizlee89 lizlee89 8 years
you lost me at Jessica Biel. haha, I love how this review recognized how an otherwise decent or even good movie can be completely ruined by one bad performance. and when you put jessica biel in anything, you run that risk. the problem is that; while she can pull off something breezy and superficial like Chuck & Larry, she does try too hard. and putting her in a period piece is like putting a really flat bottle of Coke in a period: it looks too modern and it stands out in a bad and very distracting way...
Mimita Mimita 8 years
You have to keep in mind that the character that Jessica Biel is playing is this huge character. Reading the description of the character and watching the movie I felt like wow Biel's got a lot to work with, but she didn't or rather she couldn't. There were just some lines which were great but she killed it, I mean she wasn't horrible but she could've really lived up the character's expectations. She did sing well though :) I LOVED Kristin Scott Thomas, she was just amazing and that was expected. But seriously if a shrill voice had any reference i would immediately think of her character, amazing. Colin Firth is Colin Firth, amazing. Ben Barnes, the character was so much fun yet annoying at times but he played it well. He's also got a great voice, which I was surprised to hear. Oh and the actor that plays the butler is hilarious, his name escapes me but yea he was great. He was also in Love Actually.
californiagirlx7 californiagirlx7 8 years
I didn't really have any high expectations about Biel's acting in this movie, but at least she seems to do a decent job. I'm more interested in seeing this movie because of Ben Barnes and Colin Firth :) not Jessica Biel.
kaykayelle kaykayelle 8 years
She tries so hard, but I don't know why she likes these roles. Chuck and Larry- that she could do. Find herself a movie just like that but with a bit more depth, a larger role, and she'd be golden. Personally, I think she tries to go too gritty or too intellectual or too period to prove everyone wrong, that she can do it. Not that she can't, but she can do other things better, and her talents would be better suited for a different type of project. Other people have given her good/decent reviews. For anyone to give her any sort of praise, I say she has to be pretty good in the role. I haven't seen it (yet), but can't wait because she's the lead. That in itself is exciting. Is it going into wide release? Hope so. Otherwise I'll wait for the DVD.
solitaire solitaire 8 years
With all the great actresses out there I'm stunned as to why Biel was even considered for this role.
spacebear spacebear 8 years
i was kinda excited about this mostly for the supporting cast and was hoping biel could carry the role. makes me sad that she doesnt. i'll probably rent it when it comes out on dvd.
Aurora-87 Aurora-87 8 years
I agree with your review Buzz. With such a great cast, Colin Firth and Kristen Scott Thomas, this would appear to be a hit. I felt bad for them that they were stuck with Biel. She was completely out of her league. She just doesn't have what it takes to carry a movie. Since Larita was to be an older woman, in the play she was at least 9 years older than John, it would have made since to cast an older actress. Ben and Jessica are pretty close in age, that in itself made her performance unrealistic. I agree with the others above, Charlize would have been great or even Rachel McAdams. She is only in her early 30's but she could have pulled it off.
july99 july99 8 years
It's funny that after the "Allure" interviews all reviews of Biel's performance in "Easy Virtue" totally differ from the reviews made before that interview wherein most critics agreed she did a decent job; not great but decent. Before the Allure interview this movie wasn't getting good reviews,and nether was Jessica.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
It may have less to do with ability and more to do with experience in more challenging acting pieces. If she pulls it off for at least parts of the movie maybe she just needs more time. To compare her someone like Colin Firth who spends a majority of his screen time in period pieces is a bit unfair. As someone who loves period pieces often the best actors in the business had not so awe inspiring beginnings.
tyffi tyffi 8 years
It's funny that after the "Allure" interviews all reviews of Biel's performance in "Easy Virtue" totally differ from the reviews made before that interview wherein most critics agreed she did a decent job; not great but decent. I've seen the movie, and she really wasn't that bad. No Kristin Scott Thomas, but compared to Ben Barnes she was actually good.
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
oooo tlsgirl— Charlize Theron would have been great for this role.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
I love that this review comes after the comment from Biel that she's basically being denied roles because she's too gorgeous. No, honey, it's because you're not a good actress. Plenty of other beautiful women who actually have the acting chops to do so get great roles all the time. Ever heard of Angelina Jolie? What about Charlize Theron?
shoegirl365 shoegirl365 8 years
Not to be too harsh, but for me Jessica Biel cannot deliver well in a roll that requires her to be thinking? She is probably not one of my favorite performers; I think she was right when she said "her look" is too distracting. I watched "Easy Virtue" and every time she was on screen I would get impatient for the scene to be over.
cherryblossom88 cherryblossom88 8 years
well we never expect much grom Biel, in this case is sad for the rest of the actors, because it seems like they did a good job, and biel's lack of acting skills deminished theirs.
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