September 12, 2010

Easy Virtue (2008)

The recent film Easy Virtue is an screen adaptation of Noel Coward's play by the same name. He wrote it in 1924 when he was only 25 years old! Alfred Hitchcock also made it into a silent film in 1928. This 2008 version, 80 years later, stars Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Kirstin Scott Thomas and fresh face Ben Barnes.

Production design was helmed by John Beard and costume design by Charlotte Walter. The film was shot partially at Ealing Studios (London) and partially at three grand English estates: Flintham Hall (Nottinghamshire), Englefield House (Berkshire) and Wimpole Hall (Cambridgeshire). Of all of these, Wimpole seems to be the only one open to the public but Englefield allows you to at least tour the estate's expansive grounds.



The story centers around recently widowed Larita (Biel), a feisty American race car driver who marries young English aristocrat John (Barnes) after a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo. John then brings her home to meet his stereotypically "stuffy" English parents at their grand country estate. While his father (Firth) is rather taken by Larita's "modernness," his old-fashioned mother (Scott Thomas) develops an intense loathing for her son's new wife. Hilarity then ensues.

Cloches abound! And I love her wide-collar fur stole/coat (even though I'm against wearing fur).

Meet my mother and sisters! "Oh dear god, she's an American."

While her acting is a whole other issue, Jessica Biel looked absolutely stunning in this film. Since she was supposed to be a professional race car driver, her wardrobe had a masculine edge to it - think Marlene Dietrich and Amelia Earhart. Fedoras, leather bombers, cropped jackets, pant-suits, wide-legged trousers - in fact, her character only wore a dress when the occasion demanded it (that is, at formal dinners and parties). As someone who also wears trousers 99% of the time, I was in pure heaven.

This shot is so iconic.

Love the gray fur neck wrap (I wouldn't mind wearing fake fur).

She looks like a female Indiana Jones here. Love.

A zoom out of the shot from above so you can see more of her leather jacket.

Love the high-waisted wide-legged trousers.

a zoom out of the shot from above so you can better see her trousers.

Beautiful navy scarf with golden elephants.

A zoom out of the above shot so you can see the way she wore the scarf.

I really liked this slouchy ivory blouse that she wore in several scenes.

It's sort of like a jacket but seems thin enough to be worn also as a blouse.

I think it works best if you have a flatter chest though.

Here she is in a dark geometric sweater.

Again - high waisted wide-legged trousers, this time in gray herringbone tweed.

If you haven't noticed already, she wears a lot of black and white. The wide sequined collar and black drop earrings, however, add the dramatic effect needed to offset the monochromatic colors.

Here she is in a full riding getup -blazer, vest, ascot, hat and all - before a traditional foxhunt.

Some of the other girls' outfits for the hunt. I love everyone's vests!

Back to the leather bombers and oversized scarves.

Beige driving gloves to match her beige leather jacket.

More wide-legged trousers with matching white gloves and cloche.

Blouse and vest. Always with a cigarette in hand.

If my memory serves me correctly, Larita only wore two dresses in this film (she did wear a "costume" for a can-can routine but that wasn't really notable). I love this sleeky metallic art deco-inspired strappy number but unfortunately there wasn't a good shot of it in its entirety.

This ivory gown was also quite a standout, especially against her platinum blond hair and ruby red lips.


What a lovely rhinestone hair brooch.

The wardrobe for Larita's British counterparts were all rather drab in comparison, and rightly so because ostentatious glamour was looked down upon by the country residing blue-bloods. This was also set shortly after WWI and the economic devastation the war had on its survivors was felt across all class levels. John's parents and sisters were predominantly dressed in somber gray wools and tweeds.





Here is John sitting with his childhood friend (and neighbor) in matching russet knits.

Only for very special occasions, such as this party and the dinner scene in the screencap after this one, did John's mother and sisters dress up. Not to say that Larita's everyday outfits were "dressy" but they were definitely trendier and more put-together.


Overall, I thought the look of the film was spot-on. The costumes were absolutely gorgeous and every frame was a feast for the eyes. As for the performances, Colin Firth and Kirstin Scott Thomas were perfection but Jessica Biel fell flat...I hate to be overly critical but I honestly think she was miscast. Her character was supposed to be a bold, sassy American broad who drives race cars for a living. She was also freshly widowed, after losing her first husband to cancer. Burdened by grief but still strong in spirit, she hastily rebounds with a man many years her junior as an attempt to revitalize herself and move on with her life. Even though this is supposed to be a comedy, there are still layers to her character that shouldn't be passed over. In my mind, I picture someone like Barbara Stanwyck or Ginger Rogers - someone who is equally adept at both comedy and drama - which actress between the ages of 28-35 would be the modern embodiment of that? I'm not even sure...but unfortunately, it's not Jessica Biel. But I do recommend the film - again, based on the visuals alone.



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