De-Lovely


Directed by: Irwin Winkler
Written by:Jay Cocks
Starring: Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally, Sandra Nelson
Released: November 4, 2004
Grade: A-

Cole Porter was a brilliant songwriter and composer.  He first rose to prominence in the 1930s and his Broadway hits included The Gay Divorce, Anything Goes and Leave It To Me.  One of his last shows is one many will remember - Kiss Me, Kate in 1948.

De-Lovely is the story of Porter’s life but it is told in a rather unique way.  We are introduced to an aged Cole Porter (played by Kevin Kline) sitting with a friend (Pryce) in an empty theatre.  From there, they both look back at his life with Porter offering commentary.  Porter’s famous songs help tell the story and so you could call this part-drama, part-musical.  A few artists of note appear in the film and lend their voices in the performance of Porter’s songs.  Robbie Williams, Elvis Costello, Alanis Morissette, Caroline O’Connor, Cheryl Crow and Natalie Cole are amongst them.

The story focuses on Porter’s relationship with wife Linda (Judd).  The two married in 1919 and Cole loved Linda but his success and his wealth gave him the ability to explore another love in his life – men.  He developed relationships with male performers and frequently attended gay clubs.  His wife knew of this and was happy for him to explore these “interests” but they soon dominated their relationship and Cole seldom spent time at home.

The songs and music of De-Lovely are great but the story is lacking.  I confess to being touched by the teary-eyed conclusion but the screenplay lacks depth.  Too much time is spent exploring Cole’s relationship with men and I would have rather seen a greater focus on his actual talent.  Each to their own though as many others may prefer the approach taken by writer Jay Cocks.

I enjoyed the performances of Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd.  It’s great to see Judd showcasing her talent rather than having it go to waste in some cheap crime thriller.  I don’t know if either will find themselves in contention for any year-end awards but the make-up artists sure will.  With the film spread over several decades, they age Kline and Judd beautifully.  Kline is almost unrecognisable by the end but yep, that is him under all that make-up.

Premiering at the lucrative Cannes Film Festival and debuting here in Brisbane as part of the Brisbane International Film Festival, De-Lovely is a classy film for lovers of great music.