Sunday, March 15, 2009

Australian Reviews Rave On

The most senior Australian Film Critics, Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton of At The Movies have both given 'Easy Virtue' the thumbs up. "The surprise of the film is how well Jessica Biel matches her stalwart British co-stars. She’s beautiful and, more importantly, she’s talented. She is delicious. It’s potentially a creaky old yarn but Elliott, working with screenwriter Sheridan Jobbins, has imbued the film with an energy and a beauty that is beguiling." says Margaret.

In a typically curmudgeonly exchange, David admitted it's one of the few films which has made him laugh out loud in recent times.

DAVID: Once or twice I laughed out loud, and I don't do that very often these days in the cinema.

MARGARET: Oh, you old sourpuss.

Margaret Pomeranz ****
David Stratton *** 1/2

At The Age newspaper, Phillipa Hawker opens her review by writing: "Easy Virtue is an unexpected pleasure, a deftly presented comedy of manners that takes a few turns into sharper satirical and emotional territory. Essentially, however, its intention is to amuse: it is a sure-footed, entertaining period piece, a revamp of a Noel Coward play from the '20s that never takes itself too seriously, yet never treats its source material with contempt."

Philipa Hawker *** 1/2

Sandra Hall, the senior reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald summed up her glowing review by concluding: "honesty finally trumps hypocrisy and the pacey ending sends you out on a high."

Sandra Hall *** 1/2

Richard Wilkinson *** 1/2 "This is an absolute joy. Lovingly shot and beautifully directed. Easy Virtue! Fabulous darlings.

Over at Urban Cinefile Andrew Urban summarised his opinion of Easy Virtue: "The often outrageous Steph Elliott is a surprising choice to make a Noel Coward adaptation, and a surprise it is for us too, in the best possible way. Elliott injects two special ingredients: a naughty sense of edgy fun ..and a splendid soundtrack" and Louise Keller said, "With a delicious zest for life and a casual disdain for the upper middle class, Stephan Elliott's happy return to directing is piquant joy."

A follow up interview can be found by clicking here.

Rob Lowing 7/10

I was unable to find an on-line link to Rob Lowing's review in the Sun-Herald, so I'll write it out in full here. It was on Page 15 of the "S" entertainment section, in the Sun-Herald on March 15

"It is a bit of a shock to realise this immaculately produced and cast, and very British-feeling, drawing-room comedy is directed and co-scripted by Australian Stephan Elliott, he of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fame.

While the tone is still occasionally saucy, this 1920s-set clash of cultures is reined in by the conventions of its source material: The play by Noel Coward. (This was previously made into a tougher-edged 1928 movie by Alfred Hitchcock, who was in a typically more death-obsessed mood.)

Elliott's approach is softer but not necessarily woollier, thanks to star Firth in a rare sombre role and Scott Thomas who, since extracting ecstatic reviews for her I've loved You So Long and pretty much saving this week's Confessions Of A Shopaholic, can do no wrong.

The story is tailor-made for those who want escapism but can't tolerate the stale, dumb jokes of most modern Hollywood comedies.

Easy Virtue delivers memorable, arch banter among well-bred British, intercut with romantic angst and a dead body or two (here, a mistakenly dispatched pet dog, a possibly murdered husband and an absent fiance.)

Scott Thomas is perfect as the outraged and cash-strapped mother who discovers that her young son (Chronicles Of Narnia: rince Caspian heart-throb Barnes) has married a shady, older and penniless American rather than the well-to-do lass she had earmarked for him.

The shady lady is played by Biel, who is slightly strident and too young but better than expected.

Mum gets no support from her jaundiced and distracted husband (Firth), who has never recovered from the horrors of WW1. Lending a hand - or not - are the daughters of the house and a perky butler (Love Actually charmer Kris Marshall).

Combating the artificiality is director Elliott's smart decision to set key scenes outdoors or by windows that frame the gorgeous countryside, the historic houses are also drool-worthy.

Elliott is noted for his soundtracks and Easy Virtue is a corker, with traditionally presented Coward tunes as well as jazz-baby versions of Sex Bomb and more.