It doesn't matter how many suggestive photo shoots Jessica Biel does, she can't quite shake that sanctimonious, goody two-shoes quality—the stink of 7th Heaven, it don't wear off. Her more grating qualities, however, are unintentionally well harnessed in the jazz-era period piece Easy Virtue, in which she plays the high-spirited American wife of a slumming young Englishman whose family is horrified by his brassy new bride. The setup, then: Stodgily conservative "traditional" values turned upside-down by the arrival of an ambassador from a more liberated and self-actualized culture (i.e., a racecar-driving American chick).
In a post-Bush era, it's exceedingly embarrassing to run across a film that so blithely embraces the notion that America is a nation of headstrong progress and iconoclastic disregard for convention. You can slap on all the jazzy songs and oh-no-she-didn't culture clashes you want—and director Stephan Elliott does just that—but the fundamental premise irks. As Biel's mother-in-law, the fantastic Kristin Scott Thomas is slumming it—and if I had to choose between the culture defended by Thomas and the one that Biel so recklessly reps? No contest.
Is there a bright side? Okay, well... Colin Firth, who plays Biel's father-in-law. I trust the ladies in the house will understand when I concede that Firth's forehead, ever brooding, is the one highlight Easy Virtue offers.