De-Lovely

De-Lovely

****

Reviewed by: Stephanie Wolfe Murray

This is the most romantic of films. Cole Porter (Kevin Kline - especially brilliant when old, frail, miserable and crippled) is manhandled into the theatre to revisit and share with us his often all-too-painful life.

Immediately the songs come to haunt us: Night And Day, In The Still Of The Night, Anything Goes. Robbie Williams croons What A Swell Party This Is, then Elvis Costello, Diana Krall and more, giving performances that outshine those in Chicago, because of the reality of the small scale stage sets, the costumes, the passion and the gutsiness of the singers.

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Porter's life wasn't all about song-and-dance. It had its dark side, despite his courtship and marriage to Linda (exquisitely played by Ashley Judd, possibly her best performance ever). He was a homosexual and made no secret of it. We see he has a conscience when he brings this up with Linda, sensing that to become more entwined with her could end in misunderstanding and pain.

"You don't have to love me the way I love you, Cole," she says. Always sweetly.

They are in Paris and it is here that his success, coupled with a decadent lifestyle, brings out the selfish, almost evil side of Cole. There are many young men happy to have fun with this talented and elegant paragon, while seriously messing with his life. Linda's façade begins to crack.

They move to New York, then Hollywood, always spurred by Linda, who knows he can do more than drawing room songs behind a piano. Hey! It's the age of the musical.

I could have done without the horrible movie and song, I Love You, an example of the crassness of Cole's early work in Hollywood, where the studios considered him too suave, too European and too clever with his lyrics.

I wonder if a young audience will be irritated by the lack of any reference to a date, or event in the 20th century, with which to anchor the film. Are the clothes and hairstyles the only clue? And where did his talent come from? Did Cole have a life before fame? Does it matter?

This is a better movie than Cary Grant's portrayal of Porter in 1946 in Night And Day. Prevented by the prevailing morals of the times, it would have been impossible to hint at the homosexual overtones of his life. The sentimentality of Michael Curtiz's biopic is only touched lightly towards the end of De-Lovely when director Irwin Winkler closes with an elegant, fading cameo of Cole and Linda in fond embrace after an embarrassing song-and-dance reunion with all the important characters from his life.

It is impossible to be down on the film when the many songs radiate such wit and style and keep the whole show rolling. Above all, whether in reality, or not, this is a tender, tragic love story and a stunning musical.

Bring the tissues.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2004
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Musical based on the life of Cole Porter.
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Read more De-Lovely reviews:

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