A/V Room









De-Lovely - Preview & US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

A MOVIE musical based on the life of the song-writer, Cole Porter, was one of a handful of movies which dared to take on the might of Spider-Man 2, when it opened at US cinemas over the Independence Day weekend.

Kevin Kline portrays the openly gay Porter, while Ashley Judd stars as his muse and long-admiring wife, Linda - and the ensuing film is said to offer cinema-goers a heady mix of enduring romance, gay themes, pop stars, and Porter's music.

Pop stars such as Sheryl Crow and Robbie Williams appear on the soundtrack, singing Porter classics such as Night and Day and Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.

Along with Irving Berlin, Porter is widely considered to be one of America's greatest composers, whose Broadway and Hollywood hits also include Just One of Those Things and Love For Sale.

But while the genius of his song-writing is frequently hailed, his gay life, which was thinly masked by his marriage to Linda, was often viewed as being too sensitive for film material.

A 1946 film about Porter, called Night and Day, and starring Cary Grant, was mainly a fictional piece of work that made no reference to his homosexuality.

De-Lovely, however, tackles the issue head-on, exploring the contradictions of Porter’s relationships, which make for a fascinating personal history.

According to Kline, the film ‘is not a gay movie about a gay man; it's about a great composer and a unique love story. It poses the question, what is love?’

As such, Porter's relationship with Linda is relayed via flashbacks, at a time when Porter is nearing the end of his life and taking stock of his past choices.

Director, Irwin Wrinkler’s movie unfolds as Porter sits in the audience of a theatre and watches his life played in front of him, in both staged theatrical numbers.

The story begins in Paris, in the 1920s, where he meets Linda, and moves through his triumphant years in New York, and on to Hollywood, for the old MGM musicals.

It includes the tragedy of the horse-back riding accident that crippled him, and the torment of his love-life, during which he would actively pursue men, while also maintaining his love for Linda, who provided most of the inspiration for his songs.

It is due to open in the UK later this year.


US reaction

Critics in America were somewhat divided over the merits of the movie. Some heaped praise upon it, while others found it to be awful.

The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke up for the film by stating that, like a Porter song, De-Lovely has melancholy, wit and style to burn’, while the negative reaction was summed up by Newsday, which described it as ‘the kind of escapist entertainment that has one hunting for an escape route’.

The Los Angeles Times referred to it, simply, as ‘De-lousy’, while the New York Times felt that ‘you have the creepy sense of watching adult children (with the singular exception of Mr. Kline, who can surmount any disaster) dressed up in period costume at a school pageant’.

More positive, was Variety, which wrote that ‘keeping it all alive through all the dramatic ups and down, and limited psychological and emotional complexity, is Kline’.

While the Chicago Tribune opined that it's hard not be entertained by two dozen of Cole's best, sung winningly, if not always brilliantly, by a company that includes Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and (the best, fittingly) Natalie Cole;.

And Rolling Stone declared that ‘in voice, manner, patrician charm and private torment, Kevin Kline is perfection as legendary composer Cole Porter’.

But Time Magazine lamented that ‘you enter a movie with that title, prepared to be enchanted. You straggle out a couple of hours later, lost in a fog of gloom’.

And Village Voice wrote that ‘Spike Jones or 'Weird Al' Yankovic could scarcely have been more jarring than the gaggle of preening pop stars invited to camp on the classics’.

Entertainment Weekly observed that the film represented ‘something dishy and rare: a biopic about a happy, and even enchanted, man’.

But LA Weekly rounds off this overview, by stating that ‘if you're a Cole Porter fan you might like the songs in De-Lovely, but as a portrait of an unusual marriage it's de-lumbering, de-liberate and de-cidedly flat’.

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