Movie Review by Lisa Henshall
Starring: Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally, Sandra Nelson
Director: Irwin Winkler
DE-LOVELY is a witty, intelligent and moving biopic of Cole Porter’s life – and that’s coming from someone who isn’t into musicals and didn’t know much about the man before setting foot in the cinema. Even if you think you don’t know any Cole Porter songs, you do really, as I found out: ‘Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love’, ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’, ‘Anything Goes’, ‘Let’s Misbehave’, ‘What Is This Thing Called Love?’, ‘Night And Day’ – I could go on…
Biopics can be dreary and tedious sometimes, frequently giving you the gloss with no substance, or the details without the heart and soul. DE-LOVELY manages to inform and illuminate without ever becoming dry and Jay Cocks inventive screenplay brings it all together – the story and the soul of a man obsessed with love!
Porter wanted to experience love in all its facets, and through his music he explored his own questions, but the centre of this story is filled with the big love of his life (regardless of his sexual proclivity), his wife Linda, they were incredibly close and fiercely loyal to one another from the moment they met in Paris. She was his ceaseless champion, responsible for promoting him and encouraging him, and probably making him as famous as he eventually became. Even if his sexual desires and romantic aspirations were for men, he clearly ‘loved’ Linda with all his heart and she was the inspiration for most if not all of his love songs. Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd have a beautiful on-screen chemistry and make a convincing unconventional couple.
It’s amazing what make-up and lighting can do, yet all credit must go to 57 year-old Kevin Kline who manages to be completely believable both as the 28 year-old Porter in Paris when he first meets Linda, and as the 73 year-old watching his own life-story unfold throughout the film. Kline is sublime in yet another role he has made his own, even insisting on singing live for the majority of his scenes – what a performer! Ashley Judd is radiant as Linda, giving her a feisty yet vulnerable edge that makes her relationship with Porter all the more believable and you can truly see why a gay man would fall in love with her.
Lastly, I must mention the many British and American stars whose performances pepper the film and add the requisite pizzazz as they give their own renditions of Porter’s best loved songs. I thought it was a one-off cameo when Robbie Williams sang ‘It’s De-Lovely’ at Cole and Linda’s wedding, but that was just the start, the best performances for me were: Alanis Morissette singing a quirky yet perfect ‘Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love’, Elvis Costello in a white tuxedo belting out a superb ‘Let’s Misbehave’ and a short but very sweet rendition of ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ sung by Lemar (of Fame Academy), who has the most incredible voice and managed to look dignified and cool punting down Venice’s Grand Canal in a dark suit and trilby!