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Laramie Movie Scope: De-Lovely

Lots of songs, but no heart

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 1, 2005 -- “De-Lovely” has certainly got great music, of course, since this film is about the great composer Cole Porter, certainly an interesting fellow, but it remains an emotionally cool and distant piece of work.

Despite the wonderful music, wonderful costumes and sets, and exceptional acting by Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd (“Double Jeopardy”), this Cole Porter musical biography comes off somewhat stiff and lifeless. It seems to be waltzing through Porter's life on the surface without ever breaking through that gloss to make the characters come to life. It is almost as if the filmmakers thought Porter's bisexuality would make the story interesting enough in itself, so they didn't bother with things like character depth and development. Director Irwin Winkler got a lot more emotion out of another Kevin Kline movie he helmed, “Life as a House.”

The love story between Porter and his wife comes off tepid, just like the affairs that Porter had with men. One can sense the love, but never the passion, the madness of love. The Porters waltz through life without a care, it seems for most of the movie. Eventually, troubles arise when Mrs. Porter begins to resent the heedless promiscuity of her husband, and Porter finds he doesn't have it in his heart to make his wife happy. Other sorrows arise during the course of the film, but again, the emotions are like watered-down soup. They provide poor nourishment.

Surprisingly, there is also little in the film to indicate Cole Porter's lofty place in the musical world. We know he is enormously popular and successful, of course, but we don't really get the sense of his importance in the history of music. At one point, his wife even issues an effective put down of Porter and his music. It was a deserved put down, but it still serves to belittle a musical genius.

The musical numbers are wonderfully staged in the film. Popular recording artists including Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette perform songs in lavish stage productions. Sheryl Crow's rendition of “Begin the Beguine” is a show-stopper. The acting is uniformly excellent by all the main characters, including Jonathan Pryce (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”) as Gabriel, a combination angel and stage manager who guides Cole through his life as if it were a play. We see Cole's life as a series of acts and musical stage productions. The screenplay is very clever in this regard. Kline and Judd also do a good deal of singing in the film. There are some 30 musical numbers performed in the film. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)