Cinema-Scene.com > Volume 6 > Number 23

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Director:
Irwin Winkler

Starring:
Kevin Kline
Ashley Judd
Jonathan Pryce
Alan Corduner
Kevin McNally
Sandra Nelson

Release: 2 Jul. 04
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De-Lovely

BY: DAVID PERRY

Conceptually, De-Lovely offers an ingenious glance into the life of Cole Porter, framing its story in a fine flight of fancy worthy of the entertainer. In practice, though, director Irwin Winkler sets the inspired ideas behind De-Lovely aside for a more standard biopic. With its finest flourish deadened by two hours of dull melodramatics, Porterís story becomes a minor disappointment -- too banal to truly matter and too simple to really devastate.

Yet this misstep feels almost acceptable considering the worth of its frame device. In it, an elderly Porter (Kline), likely awaiting death, is forced to live through the joyous production of his life preformed by the people who lived in it. Heís joined by a theater producer (Jonathan Pryce), Gabriel by way of Kurt Vonnegut. Pleased by the happy moments, depressed by the sad ones, Porter becomes a fine host to watch his own existence -- when he desperately wants to excise a particularly painful part of his life, one instantly knows the need should be upheld (for dramatic effect, of course, the show must go on).

But the invention that makes this so impressive becomes more of a spoken footnote to most of the film. Telling the story of Porterís love affair with Linda Lee (Judd), a wife perhaps too willing to allow her husband his homosexual needs, the film fails to resonate because it lacks the lust for life that made the manís works so wonderful. The opening and closing chapters allow Porter to again realize the flourishing genius behind Kiss Me Kate, but the rest of the film is little more than the same industrialized workhorse of a drama that has been churned out for decades. When the film makes jest of the way Night and Day, the lackluster film in which Cary Grant plays a barely recognizable Porter, the impression is that these characters know Hollywood has taken his story to a whole new world from reality. What they donít seem willing to admit is that their current manifestation isnít that far from the neighborhood of its super-sanitized 1946 antecedent
.

©2004, David Perry, Cinema-Scene.com, 4 June 2004