Even film biographies do it
Let's not fall in love with "De-Lovely," a Cole Porter biography that has style and sexual peccadillos but could still be jazzed up a little.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
As evidenced by his rendition of "You're the Top" over the end credits,
Cole Porter was no singer. But he was an extraordinary songwriter, one
who penned such standards as "Let's Misbehave," "Anything Goes," "Be a
Clown," "I Get a Kick Out of You," and "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)."
He's also one who's just now getting his cinematic due (slipshod
attempts at biography such as the 1946 film "Night and Day" starring Cary
Grant and Alexis Smith notwithstanding), care of Irwin Winkler's modest
What's most evident about Porter's glamorous life, at least according
to director Winkler and scribe Jay Cocks ("Gangs of New York"), is that the
glamour was purely superficial, belying an underlying struggle for love
and acceptance. Sure, the man had pots of money, but the center of this
tale is the relationship between Porter, played with equal parts panache
and introspection by Kevin Kline, and Linda Lee, his wife (Ashley Judd), in
what amounted to a 38-year marriage of convenience.
|Directed by: Irwin Winkler.|
Written by: Jay Cocks.
Cast: Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally, Sandra Nelson, Allan Corduner, Peter Polycarpou, Keith Allen, Robbie Williams, Lemar Obika, Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette, John Barrowman, Caroline O'Connor, Sheryl Crow, Mick Hucknall, Diana Krall, Vivian Green, Lara Fabian, Mario Frangoulis, Natalie Cole.
Cinematography: Tony Pierce-Roberts.
Edited by: Julie Monroe.
Music by: Cole Porter.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Whether Porter was gay, bi-sexual, or just plain greedy isn't altogether
obvious and probably doesn't much matter. What does matter is that the
men he loved, mostly after successful openings of his musical revues,
were mostly tolerated by his wife, just so long as he was discreet and she
was guaranteed "what's left of him." Porter could not, apparently, acquire
all the love he needed from men alone and loved Linda for her own sake,
as a trusted friend, confidante, even a muse... although, deep down, she
clearly didn't like to share.
Setting this literal stage, Winkler structures his film as the classic
aged artist flashing back upon this life with a mixture of amusement and
melancholia. A heavily made-up Kline (bearing more than a passing
resemblance to Ray Milland, it should be noted) interacts with an
exuberant Jonathan Pryce, who angelically orchestrates an imaginary life
history before the composer's aging eyes, with actors and
singers pouring forth upon the virtual stage and screen.|
Since Porter himself was not much of a vocalist Kline warbles
appropriately throughout but reserves the right to carry any kind of a real
tune it's left to the likes of pop icons Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette,
Sheryl Crow, and Natalie Cole (among others) to provide big band
productions and smaller, intimate workings of classic Cole Porter tunes.
It's a revisionist tactic that worked a lot better in "Moulin Rouge," where
the songs were more fully integrated into the drama, but it's one that
provides, if nothing else, exposure to the music that has become part of
the musical vernacular.
But while the film's intentions are honorable, there's not much to get
excited about here. Porter's life is often seen as dull as a guy hunkering
over a piano scribbling notes, and it's hard to watch Judd's Linda Lee
Porter take a back seat to his overt and obviously hurtful affairs, even if
she was a willing collaborator from the outset.
All told, "De-Lovely" is missing the passion and brio it needs to rise
above its standard docu-drama/bio-pic construct and function on a level
that best befits its iconic subject clever, witty, and seemingly effortless
in its creation.
Kline is de-lightful and Judd is de-licious but the emotional music of
"De-Lovely" is just too de-pressing for words.
|JULY 26, 2004|
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