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Easy Virtue

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Stephan Elliott's deliciously cheeky screen adaptation of one of Noël Coward's lesser-known jabs at the British upper crust will charm your pants off. The movie opens with a contemporary rendition of Coward's "Mad About the Boy," impressively sung by Jessica Biel as a Roaring Twenties American race-car driver who marries into British aristocracy and finds herself on the losing end of a war of words with the groom's mother (Kristin Scott Thomas). Though Elliott gussies up the action with clever and lyrical visuals, words are what count in this scantily plotted piece (hard to believe that Hitchcock made a silent version in 1928), a light variant on Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan with the same libertarian message that the morally compromised inherit the earth while the self-righteous wither on the vine. Easy Virtue may seem like little more than a big, fat mother-in-law joke, but Elliott pointedly recasts it as a nail in the coffin of an increasingly irrelevant gentry.

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