The director of the bubbly "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" tackles the bubbly playwright Noel Coward for " Easy Virtue," a loose but spirited adaptation of Coward's scandalous Jazz Age romp. All that bubbling means that some of the froth floats off this confection.
But it's still a winning, witty fox-trot through the Roaring '20s.
The Whittakers are English landed gentry saddled with a World War I vet patriarch ( Colin Firth), who came back from the war "lost," and a micromanaging matriarch ( Kristin Scott Thomas), who hasn't married off her not-quite-spinster daughters and has no control over her playboy son (Ben Barnes).
But Johnny's latest stunt takes everyone's breath away, especially his mother's. He's run off and married a race-car-driving, pants-wearing American flapper ( Jessica Biel).
The open warfare between the women - with the self-assured Biel holding her own with the always-flinty Thomas - is the fun of "Easy Virtue." Coward's droll wit makes most every line quotable.
Alas, the froth lasts only through the first two acts. Director Stephan Elliott and his co-adapter Sheridan Jobbins match Coward's zingers with a few of their own, yet cannot maintain the lightness when third act "revelations" take the movie into darker places.
PLOT In 1920s Britain, a matriarch disapproves of her son's free-spirited American wife.
CAST Jessica Biel, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Barnes, Colin Firth
PLAYING AT Manhasset Cinemas , Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington and Malverne Cinemas
BOTTOM LINE The Noel Coward zingers still resonate.