Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival - Easy Virtue

One of the great things about Tribeca is that you get to be an insider for a couple of weeks. Directors and actors are everywhere, if you know where to look (“Hey, isn’t that Jim Jarmusch?”) and you get to feel like you’re part of the process, instead of a target audience. Sometimes this backfires, like at the showing of Easy Virtue I saw. Director Stephan Elliott came out before the screening and said, “Sorry the cast couldn’t be here, but Kristin never leaves Paris, Colin’s on the Greek island he bought with all the royalties from Mama Mia, Jessica is in a hotel room with Justin somewhere, and Ben is alone in his apartment, totally depressed because Jessica is in a hotel room with Justin somewhere. [LAUGHTER] Yes, I suppose I should tell you, there’s very little acting in this movie. When you see Ben mooning over Jessica? That’s not acting. [LAUGHTER] And when you see Kristin and Jessica go at it [makes a snarly face and curls his hands like cat claws], that’s not acting either. [LAUGHTER] So enjoy the film.” To which I wanted to say “Film? What film? We’re here for the cat fight!”

And what a great cat fight it is. Although I should say right off that if you don't like Jessica Biel, you will probably not like this film. She's the intruding force, the outsider about whom everyone has an opinion, and her acting chops are nowhere near the level of everyone else’s. Which totally works for the way Elliott and co-writer Sheridan Jobbins have revised Noel Coward’s play. By making Larita American, you get a built-in conflict; she is now so totally DIFFERENT that it raises the stakes tenfold. And it doesn't hurt that Biel is eye candy. But if that’s all you think she is, then there will be a hole in the middle that nothing can fill in.

In which case I say, watch the Brits. They are all wonderful. Kristin Scott-Thomas gets huge laughs with silent reaction shots, but I'm getting a little tired of her doing the pinched, withdrawn, repressed harridan. She can do it in her sleep, and I'd rather see her do something a little more challenging before she drops off of a night in Paris. (Of course if this movie had been made twenty years ago, she would have been playing the Biel part.) Colin Firth has something like 20 lines in the whole thing (as well as one long speech) and everything he says opens up another window on who he is. Ben Barnes is okay, but if I were Biel I would go home to Justin too. And keep your eyes on Furber the butler. He’s played by Kris Marshall, who looks like the son of the guy who played Felton in the Richard Lester Three Musketeers, and he practically steals the movie.

It’s opening nationwide at the end of May, I believe. I highly recommend it as an alternative to Transformers 2.

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