A second Monday Movie Review.
De-Lovely is an odd duck of a musical. It strives towards (and I think achieves) honesty about who Cole Porter might have been, and what his life might truly have been like. The interweaving of Porter songs, some in a traditional musical comedy style of ‘people just knowing the words,’ some as performance, and many as a blend of the two, usually works. Some of it seemed gratuitous and squeezed in—Be a Clown was particularly irritating, as it just played out the same fun-on-the-movie-set images that every version of Be a Clown (or its clone, Make ‘em Laugh) has ever offered, without telling us anything new about the characters or the song.
The performances of Porter songs by pop stars are rather self-conscious. Look! It’s someone you young people have heard of! Nonetheless, I enjoyed many of them.
The conceit of the film is that Porter has died and, accompanied by an angel (Jonathan Pryce), he is looking back upon his life as a staged musical that he has composed. This is the sort of device that can really turn you off at the outset, but I feel it worked. It was oddly touching and thoughtful. The old age makeup used on Kline is, thankfully, not the embarrassment that most such attempts turn out to be.
The relationship with Linda is the heart of the movie. The film speculates that Linda knew about Cole’s homo- or bisexuality from the beginning (which is likely) and was happy to enter into a sexless marriage. Although the film looks behind closed doors into hearts that were never opened to biographers, it is consistent with the known facts. I think there is a delicate truth here, in the portrayal of the complex interplay between love and sex, marriage and friendship and romance.
Although not entirely successful, I found De-Lovely moving and worthwhile.