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Review: Easy Virtue

(PG)

    Noel Coward's 1924 play, filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1928, has been given a fresh, hugely entertaining lease of life by adapter (with Sheridan Jobbins) director Stephan Elliot, thanks to impeccable direction and ideal casting

    Kristin Scott Thomas is absolutely on target as Mrs Whitaker who greets her son John's (Ben Barnes) new American bride Larita (Jessica Biel) with the kind of icy hostility the United Nations would find near impossible to mediate.

    The comedy sparkles with effervescent wit decorated by Elliott with aptly-chosen 1920s songs (it opens, appropriately, with Coward's Mad About the Boy) and light, bright acting, notably by Barnes, Biel, Scott Thomas and Colin Firth who gives his most attractive performance to date as Thomas's long-time long-suffering and terminally jaundiced first World War survivor husband.

    For my money it is far and away the best film to emerge from the revived Ealing Studios, perpetrators of trash like St Trinian's.

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