Cole Porter, legendary composer and lyricist, met and married American divorcee Linda in Paris. The marriage was unexpected: where Porter was clearly homosexual, Linda was uninterested in physical intimacy. Even so, those who knew them describe them as deeply in love with each other on a purely emotional level. Throughout their long marriage, Porter repeatedly engaged in shallow liaisons with various men while Linda looked the other way--at least as long as Porter was reasonably discreet.
Porter's sense of discretion was not always sufficent for Linda, who left him several times and threatened divorce on at least one occasion. It was, however, enough "to get by" with the vast public, which saw only the glamour of their lives and the great brilliance of Porter's talents. The result was a 1946 film biography that put many of Porter's greatest songs before the camera while casting handsome Cary Grant as the waspish Porter and lovely Alexis Smith as the somewhat icy Linda--a movie that went over well with audiences but which actually had very little basis in reality.
The 2004 DE-LOVELY takes a considerably different tack. It would be hard to say that the film "tells all"--but it tells enough and it offers a host of high-art concepts and truly fine performances in the process. It debuted with tremendous fanfare and then, amazingly, seemed to vanish from the screen within a single night. While most critics liked the film, the public did not, and they were pretty emphatic about it.
Some audiences complained about the "artiness" of the film's concept, which consists of the aging Porter reviewing the major events of his life through the filter of a stage show--an idea that seems to owe a great deal to Bob Fosse's ALL THAT JAZZ without managing to carry it off with the same conviction. Some Porter fans complained that the contemporary pop singers used in the film couldn't carry Porter's music; others complained that the music was never presented in a straight-forward sort of way. Still others were taken aback by the discovery that Porter was gay--and truly one has to wonder where such viewers have been for the past fifty years, that they somehow managed to miss this very widely circulated bit of information.
In truth, the concept works reasonably if not spectacularly well, the singers are acceptable if not always knock-out in their performances, and Porter's sexual habits are made plain without throwing the characters in and out of bed on the screen. The real problem with DE-LOVELY, at least to my mind, is two-fold: it is just ever-so-slightly slow and it is profoundly, and I do mean profoundly, depressing. Each tends to heighten the effect of the other.
On the other hand, the performances are exceptionally good. Kevin Kline is hardly a look-alike for the small, dark Cole Porter, but you believe him in the role. As for Ashley Judd--the role of Linda Porter would seem impossible to play in a believable sort of way, much less in a sympathetic manner, but she carries it flawlessly from start to finish. Together they are brilliant, and that isn't a word I use very often in refence to contemporary film making.
The DVD contains a host of bonuses, including two audio tracks and several behind-the-scenes documentaries, and for once the word "bonus" really is generally applicable. While it will probably prove too dark for most, many will be fascinated by the way DE-LOVELY turns the glitter of Porter's public life into a costume for his often bitter private life--something that was very much the case in reality. Recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
What we have here is a film based on but not limited to the adult life of Cole Porter. How to describe it? It's not a biopic nor is it a musical comedy. It resembles All That Jazz (1979) and Evita (1996) when combining fact with contrivance within a series of flashbacks to create dramatic impact. Various devices (e.g. hallucination and reminiscence) enable us to explore various components of Porter's life as well as the various relationships which he developed over a period of several decades. Kevin Kline brilliantly portrays Porter, with an able supporting cast headed by Ashley Judd (Linda Thomas Cole), Jonathan Pryce (Gabe), Kevin McNally (Gerald Murphy), Sandra Nelson (Sara Murphy), and Alan Corduner (Monty Woolley). I guess this could be called a Film Noir/Musical Review. Defining moments in Porter's adult life are coordinated with his greatest Broadway musicals which include Gay Divorcee, Anything Goes, and Kiss Me Kate, later adapted to the screen. As for his most popular songs, several of their titles suggest double meanings when we take into account Porter's bi-sexual love life. For example, "Let's Do It," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "You Do Something to Me," and "Anything Goes." Irwin Winkler pulls all of this together fairly well. Yes, the plot has its lumpy moments and, yes, the make-up isn't always effective (late in life, Kline's Porter resembles Charles Foster Kane) but the musical performances are highly entertaining and I especially appreciate the fact that Kline sings as ineptly as Porter did. I much prefer this version to Night and Day (1946) which Porter enjoyed because he was played by Cary Grant. On balance, De-Lovely is an enjoyable film and I resist the temptation to offer a pun on its title when selecting a title of my own for these brief remarks.
"When they begin the beguine
It brings back the sound of music so tender,
It brings back a night of tropical splendor,
It brings back a memory ever green."
When "De-Lovely" begins it is October 15, 1964 and Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) is about to die. This requires his life to flash before his eyes, but since we are talking Cole Porter this means there are all sorts of creative decisions involved in this final production. The conceit of the film is that Porter is sitting in the first theater that he visited while growing in Peru, Indiana, with "Gabe" (Jonathan Pryce) at his side. The result is not a musical but rather a musical biography, which is why we do not go back to Porter's childhood but rather to the moment that the gay songwriter met the love of his life, the divorcee Linda Lee (Ashley Judd), who would become his wife.
"And that's why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love."
Cole and Linda marry, equally aware of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of their relationship. Linda was more than a front of respectability for Cole's homosexuality; she was his muse. "De-Lovely" abandons the traditions of a bio-pic in terms of places and dates to focus more on the songs Cole Porter wrote. Kevin Kline is a piano player, and he uses this talent to great affect in the film. Cole is often sitting at the piano composing the music of his life and it compels us to listen again to the familiar lyrics, but this time in the context of his life. The recurring thought is not that he is writing all of these songs to reflect himself, but that there are times when the songs are clearly for her.
"Every time we say goodbye, I die a little,
Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little,
Why the Gods above me, who must be in the know.
Think so little of me, they allow you to go."
You can try and tell the story of Cole Porter's life, but it is always going to come back to his music. After all, it is a song that attracts Linda to Cole and teaching someone to sing "Night and Day" that shows Porter at his seductive best. However, when you have Cole Porter's songs being sung by the likes of Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Dianna Krall, Robbie Williams, and Natalie Cole, it is not surprising that those songs once again take the spotlight away from the man who wrote them. I was rather surprised that I recognized every single song played in "De-Lovely," but then that only serves to underscore that Cole Porter is one of the greatest American songwriters.
"You're the Top! You're the colosseum,
You're the Top! You're the louve museum,
You're a melody from a symphony, by Strauss,
You're a Bandle bonnet, a Shakspeare sonnet,
You're Mickey mouse.
You're the Nile, You're the Towr of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa;
Im a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if Baby, Im the bottom,
You're the top!"
Director Irwin Winkler's 2004 film has the advantage of not only Porter's music but of Kline's performance, although obviously the actor needs to tone down his singing considerably (we get to hear Porter himself singing at the start of the final credits). Judd, who usually refrains from singing in public to avoid comparison to her mother and sister, does a couple of songs as well. You can also throw in the exquisite period costumes courtesy of Armani that help to define Porter as the paradigm of wit and urbane sophistication before the riding accident that crippled him. The film keeps trying to suggest that "Let's Misbehave!" is the de facto Cole Porter theme song, but in the end the man and his music both speak to more optimistic sentiments.
"The world has gone mad today
And good's bad today,
And black's white today,
And day's night today,
When most guys today
That women prize today
Are just silly gigolos
And though I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer
When you propose,
on July 7, 2004
De-Lovely is a major achievement and is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of them being that it was even made in the first place. For every De-Lovely, Hollywood seems to crank out hundreds of shoot-em-up explosion spectaculars, teen sex comedies, star vehicles for gangster rappers, and depressing, nihilistic "independent" films for the intelligentsia.
De-Lovely is everything these films are not. It is a great musical in the "they don't make `em like that any more" sense, a poignantly heartwarming love story with true emotional depth (and a twist), a celebration of life and happiness (as well as a recognition and understanding of life's tragedies), and a star vehicle for two truly talented actor/singers, Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd, plus a plethora of cameo appearances by currently popular singers (including Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow and Natalie Cole) who obviously are singing their songs more for love (of Cole Porter) than money.
As depicted in De-Lovely, Cole Porter possessed more joie-de-vivre than perhaps any man in history, and he wrote his songs straight from the heart. The first part of the film, corresponding to the first half of Porter's adult life, appears to be all peaches and cream, and I was prepared simply to enjoy an upbeat musical. Porter enters into a nearly perfect (for him) relationship with his wife Linda, that allows him his dalliances and to remain true to his self, but also to, over time, experience the depths of true love with a life's partner. It is the second half of the film, when the Porter's must overcome multiple tragedies, that elevate De-Lovely to a truly noteworthy film, by showing a deep understanding of love and humanity.
Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd give great performances. Klein has the most challenging role, as he must sing, dance, and act through a broad range of emotions, as well as age over the course of 40 or 50 years (by the way, the make-up work which aged the actors is very good - it must be amazing for Klein and Judd to see what they may look like in their 60s or 70s). I wouldn't be surprised to see Oscar nominations for Klein (especially) and Judd, if this film reaches a broad enough audience. My quibbles with the film are minor (some abrupt transitions, and some garbled dialogue), and are far outweighed by the many positives.
Surprisingly, the major movie critics have ranged all over the "love/hate" spectrum in their reviews of De-Lovely (check out the metacritic web site to see for yourself). I think the reaction to the film is primarily a function of the state of mind of the reviewer, i.e. subjectivity dominates objectivity. I am flabbergasted that the Village Voice reviewer could call this film "overwhelmingly glum". I wonder what this reviewer thought of "Sid & Nancy", which I would say is the antithesis of De-Lovely?
If modern pop culture has not yet turned you into a complete cynic, if you have any appreciation at all for music of the Jazz Age, big bands, or crooners such as Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, or (today) Harry Connick Jr., if you have a romantic bone in your body, if you enjoy traditional Hollywood or Broadway musicals or a great love story, then I think you will find De-Lovely definitely delightful!
on January 2, 2005
The musical production numbers are fabulous in this telling of the high and low points in the life of songwriter Cole Porter. He wrote so many tunes, ones I've heard and loved all my life, and those selected for this movie were great---many done with updated renditions by current artists.
The movie begins when an aged Porter is summoned by a director to view the rehearsal for a play based on his life. The story unfolds in a series of theatrical scenes beginning with his love-at-first-sight romance with Linda and his lifelong devotion to her. Also highlighted is his bisexual lifestyle which she accepts amazingly well as long as it doesn't become a public scandal. Kevin Kline is outstanding as the young and dashing Porter as well as the aged and defeated man. Ashley Judd shines as the loving mate who guides his career and his recovery from a horrific accident.
But it is the music that steals the show, the lyrics and melodies that have endured for years and will remain firmly entrenched as pop standards long past the 20th century. Songs such as "De-Lovely," "Let's Misbehave," "Night and Day," "Anything Goes," "You're the Top," and my personal favorite "Every Time We Say Goodbye" are done with the style and grace worthy of Cole Porter and performed by such varied artists as Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Natalie Cole and others including Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. One outstanding feature of the DVD is that the scene selection menu makes it easy to just go back and see all the production numbers.
If you like musicals and a toe-tapping good time, this is one you don't want to miss.
on June 3, 2004
Straight people will probably give straight people awards for this one. Despite it's very many short-comings, I enjoyed this film, and would recommend it to friends. The soundtrack (ASIN: B00023GGHQ) is already in my "Buy" cart.
The aged, late Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) reviews his life as a directed (Jonathan Pryce) performance. Irwin Winkler directs this musical biographic drama, which centers on the "love" affair between Cole Porter and his wife, Linda. It reveals her acceptance of Cole's homosexual life-style, and the effects it had upon their marriage. Cole's significant gay relationships are footnoted. An array of artists (Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Vivian Green, Robbie Williams, etc) add a modern tribute to many of Cole Porter's hits.
Ashley Judd gives a stunning performance as wife Linda Porter. Kevin Kline's performance as both young and old Cole Porter is a gem, while never once being believable as a bi-sexual/homosexual. Indeed all of the gay characters were either overacted stereotypes or underactedly sterile. Straight people's imaginings of what gay relationships and life-styles are like. The brevity of Cole's homosexual encounters (only seen with pecking kisses, and getting dressed exiting after sex) were reminiscent of 1970s cinematic portrayals and subtracted from the story, de-emphasizng Linda's need to feel jealous. The film offers a welcomed view into Cole Porter's bi/gay personal life, but only as seen through straight glasses.
If you are a purist, the historical inaccuracies and mordern use of his music will probably drive you crazy. Though, there are a few historical gems in this film, omitted from other biographies, because of the access granted to the filmmakers. The modernization of the music may not be appropriate for a bio-pic, but it served well as a musical storytelling soundtrack. Actually, the soundtrack is just plain FUN!! Vivian Green singing "Love For Sale" was worth the price of admission, alone. If you're into fairly current music, the line-up of artists singing Cole Porter tunes is an eye-catcher.
Despite the fact that you leave the film with a wealth of minor unexplained details, after a disjoint attempt at a happy ending...this film will actually find you BOTH beating to the musical numbers and teary-eyed. It's "small" budget certainly doesn't show. It's acting is spot-ily great. It is often very moving. The dialog has charm, and many true one-line gems. It's entertainment value is quite high. Cole Porter's songs and tunes can catch anyone's attention, and are introduced to a new generation.
Though, "De-Lovely" may not be de-lovely, I found it to be entertaining.
This often fascinating portrait of songwriter Cole Porter, directed by Irwin Winkler, puts many of Porter's most famous songs into the context of his life. But that life, as seen in this filmscript by Jay Cocks, is full of contradictions, and the viewer ultimately comes away from the film familiar with many aspects of Porter's life but with little sense of the whole. Well worth seeing for Porter's wonderful music, and for the on-screen solos by contemporary stars like Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Alanis Morrissette, and Sheryl Crow--the film ultimately fails to give much insight into the complexity of the man, his marriage, or his career.
Part of the difficulty lies in the structure of the film, which opens with two aged men, one of them obviously Porter (Kevin Kline), the other a director (Jonathan Pryce), sitting in front of an empty stage on which scenes from Porter's life and music unfold. Though this device gives a frame to the action, it is intrusive, constantly shifting attention from emotional and tension-filled scenes back to the two old men, who just stand, observe, and occasionally comment. This kills the tension and prevents the audience from developing any sustained personal identification with the characters from episode to episode.
Porter, a bisexual, is shown from the outset as a devoted partner to Linda (Ashley Judd), the supportive and loving woman who becomes his wife, helpmate, and, in some ways, guiding spirit, though she is aware of his attraction for men and often finds herself alone. Recognizing his love for her, she tolerates his dalliances (for reasons that are unclear here), and as the audience sees Cole and Linda subtly aging (remarkably well done by Make-up Director Sarah Monzani) and observes their increasingly ostentatious lifestyle, they also see Cole welcoming the stability Linda gives his life. Kevin Kline is a rather phlegmatic Cole Porter, but he exudes charm, and in his lack of good singing voice, he parallels Porter himself. Ashley Judd is terrific as Linda, very relaxed and confident in her role and able to convey in a glance her love and concern.
The photography (Tony Pierce-Roberts) adds to the period flavor throughout--bright, colorful, and sometimes frenetic, when the mood calls for it, with one scene that fades from color to black and white for dramatic effect. Ultimately, the viewer gains some information about Porter and his life and has a fine time listening to the music and watching the dancing, but the man himself remains an enigma. Mary Whipple
'Delovely' is an interesting portrait of Cole Porter and his wife, Linda, played out against a backdrop of Cole's songs from various musicals. The film is framed in a tryptych manner -- the first act is the Paris/Venice time; the second act takes place in New York; the third act in Hollywood. In between are minor scenes fleshing out the life of the Porters.
Cole Porter was born in the late 1800s, and came to prominence in the same post-war, roaring 20s ages that also saw people such as Irving Berlin and Noel Coward. He met the desirable and socially-connected divorcee Linda Taylor in Paris; their marriage seemed from the outside rather idyllic, but there was a secret. This was a marriage of love, to be sure, but not lust. Cole Porter was gay, not really even bisexual, but gay. While this came as no surprise to Linda, over time Cole's attachments to his other loves threatened the integrity of their relationship in Linda's eyes.
Cole Porter tried to be faithful to three things -- to his wife, Linda; to his music; and to his own identity. These did not always fit well together. Even though faithfulness to Linda meant emotional and relationship attachment rather than sexual fidelity, even here, Cole's attachments to some of his lovers would become strong enough to warrant Linda wanting a change; unfortunately for her, Cole was able to find a gay life no matter where they moved. Linda's ultimate reconciliation to this came from her recognition that Cole's life, like his music, couldn't be restrained. Cole's ultimate regret was that he couldn't find the perfect someone, that his love was always meaningful but not always satisfying.
Kevin Kline's protrayal of the conflicted Cole Porter is a very good one; Ashley Judd's Linda is very sensitive and stunningly portrayed. Jonathan Pryce is the shadowy director, who pieces together the life of the Porters in a montage in front of an aged Cole, not quite in flashback, but in time-sequence inspiration. We as the audience watching with Cole are introduced to major figures in his life, including some of his lovers (but only peripherally), and many of his friends, but most figures remain undeveloped save for Cole and Linda.
The sets, the scene sequence changes from 'actual' to 'stage', and the scene-shift tone of character are all very effective. Cole Porter's running commentary on his own life helps provide an historical framework as well as an emotional one; the narrative is carried by both the relationship interactions and the songs -- Cole Porter put so much of his own life into the songs. He claims at various points that they were all written for Linda; Linda, ever the realist in the shell of an idealist, knows better, and says so.
While much of the story, the sets, the costume and even the credits are done in a style of the 1920s and 1930s (Art Deco is a prominent, recurring theme), the music did not take on this style. More in the tone of 'Red, Hot, and Blue', the Cole Porter-themed tribute album of the late 80s, the songs were often modern renderings of old standards, but modern stars such as Elvis Costello, Alanyis Morrisette, and Sheryl Crow. There are a good number of pieces performed by Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd themselves, Klein performing them as the less-than-stellar-singer Porter himself might have done them. While the music being performed in more modern arrangement jars a little bit with the more time-bound theme of the film, it is still effective in the sense that Porter's music is timeless in many ways.
The movie drags a bit at times, but it covers the long stretch of Cole Porter's career, and his marriage with Linda from beginning to end. Romance with a decided twist, this is a somewhat sad film, in that despite the obvious love around the characters in the film, no one is finally satisfied with such love. And still, it is de-lovely.
Irwin Winkler's "De-Lovely" has style, grace, and truly wonderful renditions of many of Cole Porter's most famous songs. It's funny, it's charming, and, of course, it's sad. Also, the acting is very good across the board -- especially Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, although their characters' many followers are also portrayed marvelously. This is definitely a film worth seeing, hearing, and, since you'll probably be watching it in your living room, occasionally dancing along with. It also does a very nice, subtle job of capturing the hurt that is innevitable when (in this case) a wife suddenly recognizes that she has become an adjunct to her husband's social popularity, where she once was his equal or better.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the structure of the film is a little hard to take at times and, to me, opens the film by needlessly casting a negative pall over the entire story. I don't want to give too much away here, but after popping in the DVD happy to learn more about the life of one of my musical favorites, I was immediately greeted with a dour message of what a schmuck he apparently was, at least to one person, during the most productive years of his life. This undercut the enjoyment of the story tremendously for me, but hopefully it won't hit you as hard.
My other disappointment with the film is more personal. Part of why I have long revered Porter is that he was from Indiana, as am I. Thus, since this IS a biopic, I also went into it hoping to learn a little of what it was about his Hoosier childhood that led to his remarkable talents. (I assure you, it wasn't the cornfields or the strong KKK presence of the time.) Unfortunately, the only reference to his childhood is in the Deleted Scenes section of the DVD, and is unrelated. Again, this disappointment has more to do with my own background, but I think any Cole Porter fan would enjoy seeing A LITTLE background on where this man's sense of humor, incredible use of language, and musical talents came from. Unlike his competitors, after all, he wrote both the music AND lyrics of his songs.
Overall, though, if you like Cole Porter's music -- or even the music of his contemporaries, like Gershwin, Berlin, or Lerner & Lowe -- you will enjoy this film. It does a nice job of capturing not only the elegance and style of the period, but the hard work and deal-making necessary for even great talents to make it in the entertainment business then...and now.
on January 6, 2007
I am not sure one would have to have lived through the Cole Porter, Rogers & Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Hoagy Carmichael era to fully appreciate this movie, but I DID and I DO. The use of Jonathon Pryce as Gabriel to shepherd the movie thru the story and all the songs was pure genius. It also allowed greater insight into Porter, the musical genius, and Porter, the man. I, for one, could not have asked for a more talented cast singing and acting some wonderfully witty and sometimes salacious lines. For me and many others, this is not just a DVD, but one to be played over and over. Kevin Kline becomes Cole Porter; Ashley Judd becomes his wife and his muse. An excellent choice of performers to bring Porter's life and music (as he wrote it) to life rounded out a wonderful movie. If you love Cole Porter, this one's for you; otherwise, forget it.