R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Irwin Winkler
scr Jay Cocks
with Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally, Allan Corduner, John Barrowman, Kevin McKidd, Peter Polycarpou, Keith Allen, Richard Dillane, Edward Baker-Duly, James Wilby, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Mick Hucknall, Diana Krall, Lemar, Alanis Morissette, Robbie Williams
release US 2.Jul.04, UK 1.Oct.04
04/US 2h05

Lovely but overdressed: Judd and Kline

pryce mckidd williams
De-Lovely Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
This is the second Cole Porter movie bio to get it wrong. Night and Day (1946) was at least an enjoyable fantasy; this is a misguided clunker that borders on being offensive.

In this film, Cole (Kline) starts out as an old man visited by the Ghost of Biographers Past (Pryce), who takes him on a trip through his life, centring on the deeply romantic relationship between the Cole--a witty bon vivant with a gift for clever, insightful lyrics and catchy, intricate tunes--and the young beauty Linda (Judd). We follow their life from Paris to Broadway to Hollywood, as Linda stands by her man through career ups and downs, sexual indiscretions, a horrific accident, and so on.

Porter's life is an engaging, gripping story, and telling it through his songs is a clever idea. But while the script has flashes of insight and intelligence, it whitewashes Porter's life, only referring obliquely to his sexuality (there's one brief kiss, and a truly awful gay nightclub sequence) and making out that his marriage was a big love affair. It was actually marriage of convenience between an older divorcee and a talented young man--probably more about respect and artistic synergy than love. In other words: Kline and Judd, no matter how good they are here (and they're wonderful), are hopelessly miscast.

Meanwhile, the supporting cast capture iconic figures with energy and glee. And many of the singers appear on screen, which is good fun even when they seem a bit too 21st century. Although the period is questionable anyway, since nothing provides historical context besides the costumes. Speaking of which, everyone overdresses shamefully; not a single outfit looks like real clothing. But then in a film/play within a film, maybe that's the point. These aren't supposed to be real people ... are they?

Still, they should have passion and life. And Winkler simply drains the energy from the film. We never believe a single relationship; the only spark of chemistry is between Kline and Barrowman singing Night and Day, then Winkler pans the wrong way into yet another gimmicky trick that undermines both the film's strongest scene and Porter's most gorgeous song. In the end, only the songs survive. They're so beautiful, funny and moving that you often want to close your eyes and enjoy them without Winkler's clunky "interpretations". In other words: Buy the CD and skip the film.

cert PG adult themes 23.Jul.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... De-Lovely Matthew Jacob, Menlo Park, CA: 4/5 "Despite a lot of cliches, I found it to be quite moving. The movie hangs on the relationship between the Porters and their enjoyment of each other. Anyone can criticise the many flaws and bombast in a film, but the relationships and the motivations ultimately are believable. This movie brings to mind another flawed gem: All That Jazz. Again, much to roll ones eyes over, but ultimately the performances and story are moving. Which is what matters." (23.Aug.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall