“Easy Virtue”
 
            Those “English Tea Party” kind of films usually have a lot of talk, and very little of anything that resembles action, and this one is no exception.  The talk, however, is exceptional.  It’s based on the Noel Coward play, which Hitchcock already converted to film, but this time the screenplay is re-written, and the dialogue sounds more “modern,” though everyone is still in period costume.
            It’s after World War One, landed gentry, English countryside, baronial estate.  The lord of the manor, played by Colin Firth, appears somewhat unkempt, somewhat distracted, and a lot detached.  It turns out that the war experience, where he lost his entire company of men somewhere in the killing fields of France , has left him battle-scarred, shell-shocked, world-weary, and cynical.  Which is why his super-take-charge wife, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, has to run the household, which she does, efficiently and mirthlessly and caustically.  The two grown daughters are somehow both self-centered and beaten-down.  They wouldn’t survive outside of the bounds of their regal little cocoon, where everything is not quite as prosperous as it appears.  Yes, they’d sooner sell off land than let the servants go-----appearances being everything, you know.  And one wouldn’t think of doing something so demeaning as actually working for a living, like the poor commoners.  It would seem that idleness is regarded as an entitlement.
            Into this stodgy morass of stifling snobbery bursts the blonde bombshell, the racy young American woman (Jessica Biel) who races a car in the Grand Prix, no less.  Their child-like grown son has hauled off and married her, and is bringing her home as the prize trophy of his carefree vacation abroad.  Mother is mortified.  The sisters are equally catty, vicious, and elitist.  Our been-around-the-block-a-couple-times American girl can’t understand how these patronizing people can be so snooty even while disaster overtakes them, but then, that’s the British stiff upper lip, thinly disguising a sneer.
            Will the titled family ever accept this interloper from the rebellious colonies, the scandalous stranger with the easy virtue?  Will the adult son wake up and realize that his family is destroying his young marriage?  Will the disapproving mother ever relent and even be civil to the bumpkin bride?  And will lethargic father stir out of his sardonic fog long enough to make the only emotional connection possible in this angst-ridden scenario?
            Moviegoers who seek witty dialogue will enjoy this one.  Those who yearn for chase scenes, explosions, violence, sex, nudity, and street language will have to go elsewhere. 
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)      When have you been the newcomer, and were treated shabbily?
2)      When have you disdained the newcomer to your family, and did you manage to disguise your disappointment?
3)      What ending would you expect?  How would you interpret this ending?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas