Saturday, March 8, 2008

Relative Values

No-one ever said that Julie Andrews didn't glow. Or didn't look utterly English. She seems - even when standing motionless - to have the jolliest kind of life going on inside her and to represent an England which barely exists any more. It is most fitting, then, that she is the comic cornerstone of Noël Coward's high-jinks frolic, a happy satire on English class set in the 50s. She is a woman content with her status and class, but bright enough to see that social change is just over the hill.
A comedy of discriminating taste and dirty little secrets it is indeed a very funny play, where the Countess Felicity, of Marshwood (Julie Andrews), her sartorially splendid and mischevious nephew Peter (Colin Firth) and the butler Crestwell (Stephen Fry) gets all the laughs.
The action revolves around the aristocratic Marshwood family and its reaction to a newcomer. Worlds collide when young, handsome and charming Nigel ( Edward Atterton) meets spoiled Hollywood starlet Miranda Frayle (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Miranda is rebounding from a stormy romance with co-star Don Lucas ( William Baldwin) when she meets Nigel. Always eager to be among the rich and the beautiful, Miranda eagerly accepts Nigel’s advances. The two soon announce they are in love and plan to get married, which shocks and appals all who know them.

Right before the engagement party to be held at Marshwood, Moxie (Sophie Thompson), the Countess's personal maid and best friend reveals that Miranda is her estranged sister. Crestwell quickly devises a plan-but an inebriated Lucas's arrival at Marshwood to try to talk to Miranda causes all chaos to break loose...
The satirical main story line is drawn out as the Countess, Miss Frayle and the maid in disguise - Moxie - converse, the latter cleverly revealing the flaws in the American's rags-to-riches tale. There are those who claim Relative Valuesis Coward slapping Americans in the face, particularly Hollywood types, for their shallowness and lack of style, and satirizing the Brits for their pomposity.

Memorable Quote from "Relative Values":

Miranda Frayle: I am leaving; I am taking the 11 o'clock train.
Nigel: No, you can't do that!
Miranda Frayle: Why?
Nigel: It's a terrible train. You have to change twice!

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