Linda Stirling Unmasked: The Black Whip

: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.






'With a shady past, hair as platinum as Jean Harlow's (always a recipe for "trouble") and zany, current circumstances that find her racing cars in Monaco, how can a flapper girl bordering on 30 adapt herself to jolly old England?....'


Penelope Andrew
The Huffington Post


The adaptation of Noel Coward's play is a celebrated costume comedic drama with a romantic period piece which contains all of the elements of a successful love story but somehow ends up feeling more like a casual fling than a full-blown love affair.

Easy Virtue takes place in the period of the 1920s where the most influential and wealthy exploit their lavish lifestyles. In an elegant, laconic tribute to a lost world of a lost world of drawing-room dramas it depicts the moralistic, tight-lipped but fundamentally hypocritical society.

Garbo: 'It may be easy, but it ain't virtue.'

Jessica Biel plays the primary role of Larita, an American, racing car driver and divorcee who falls in love with a younger upper class Englishman named John Whittaker (Ben Barnes). The lively couple return to his home, which is a large country estate on where the starchy family doesn't accept her. John's mother Mrs. Whittaker (Kristin Scott Thomas) has a great dislike for her new daughter-in-law and in a series of comedic scenes spars with Larita in order to cancel out the marriage. Mrs. Whittaker is a stern and controlling women who manipulates everyone around her. John's father Mr. Whittaker played by Colin Firth is a depressed veteran of WWI and somewhat free spirit seems to find a Larita a breath of fresh air to a stale household. With a host of snobbish family members and friends portrayed by Kris Marshall, Kimberly Nixon, Katherine Parkinson, Pip Torrens, Christian Brassington and Charlotte Riley (Sarah, John's initial fiance) give great supporting performances.

It is evident that in a lead character position Jessica Biel's effort to play an active and assertive role in her role causes conflict because her performance is too fluffy and flighty in the mixture of witty and intelligent performance of Kristin Scott Thomas who is a major adversary in most of the scenes. I find the romantic chemistry between Jessica Biel and Ben Barnes is a strained performance and lack any sense of realism.

The film takes a turn to a triangular romantic alliance between two men (father and son) and a woman (Larita). This is an ambitious relief in the plot, however not in the performances. Colin Firth's (Mr. Whittaker) performance as the new love interest of Larita lacked credibility. His character remains too undeveloped and too shallow to have any real resonance. It's still a mystery by the end of the film what Larita sees in such a spoiled immature John. Their relationship feels puzzling rather than electrifying.

The costume design and sets are wonderful to behold, framing the drama beautifully. It's something which is very easy to overlook when it's done correctly, but disturbingly obvious when it's not. In this film it serves as a highlight for the flamboyance of the period that it lavishly decorated. Extravagantly giving the most to the interiors these sets and costumes are a feast for the eye.

It is a shame the same can't be said of Stephan Elliott's plot development. While serving to link disparate scenes together in witty and amusing ways, it's delivery feels in my opinion clunky and artificial. Easy Virtue lacks the depth and chemistry that a film driven by passion demands and so, like Larita and John's romance, is a mistake.

Directed by: Stephan Thompson
Running time: 95 minutes
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy and Adaptation
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: PG-13


Gerald Wright
Film Showcase

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