Review Date:
Director: Irwin Winkler
Writer: Jay Cocks
Producers: Irwin Winkler, Charles Winkler, Rob Cowan
Kevin Kline
Ashley Judd
Jonathan Pryce
The musical life and times of songwriter Cole Porter right before he meets his wife in Paris and they begin their courtship along the way to his grand success from Europe to Broadway to Hollywood. Lots of music ensues.
If MOULIN ROUGE was the great revival musical that started the “new wave” of such films and CHICAGO was the Oscar-winning ho-hum follow-up the year next (“ho-hum”, according to me, that is), DE-LOVELY will likely be the lower end of that totempole with an uncharismatic love story, major gay overtones that are unlikely to set sparks into mainstream audiences and a melancholic, somewhat depressing, theme overall. I didn’t care much for his film, particularly because its basis in love between the two lead characters, played by Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, simply did not impress upon me any sort of chemistry, connection or believable, wanting love between them. I don’t think the matter was helped by the fact that the lead character of Cole Porter is a very gay man who we are somehow supposed to believe has an undying devotion for his wife, but who while married, also bangs half the men ’round town! Porter comes off as selfish and surprisingly cold-hearted, and considering that he’s the man who wrote all of these great love tunes, that’s an odd statement. The film’s main strength is its basis in catchy tunes, with all of Porter’s favorites getting their time to shine in the spotlight, via a cameo-based, obviously publicity-driven, range of singers belting them out including my personal favorite rendition sung by Alanis Morissette called “Let’s Do It” and Kline’s final ode to Judd. None of the others were particularly memorable, save for a pretty bad song/dance number about “being a clown” about halfway through the movie and Jonathan Pryce jumping up and breaking into song at some point. Not cool.

The film is also presented in “A Christmas Carol” type of way, with Pryce’s character essentially taking the older Porter character through flashbacks of his own life via a theater show, but I think that aspect of the film could have been excised entirely, especially since the movie runs a little too long to begin with, and the scenario didn’t really bring all that much to the proceedings. My biggest problem with the movie had to be its lead “love story” though, which other than the reasons state above, also wasn’t aided by Judd’s less-than-stellar performance which confirmed her lack of range past anything that doesn’t feature her as a lawyer/cop fighting a serial killer. Kline is okay in his part, but his character simply didn’t sell me on the fact that he loved this woman at any point. The whole thing reminded me of a recent episode of the “Dr. Phil” TV show in which a gay man married a heterosexual woman and a few years later, the duo was confused about why things weren’t working out. Uuuuuuhm, here’s a clue…the man is gay!!! The same applies in this film and as much as I’d love to say that the homosexual aspect of the movie shouldn’t matter when it comes to a “love story”, well, it actually does- especially when there’s marriage involved and all that other goofy stuff that goes along with the concept of eternal love…to a woman! (not that there’s anything wrong with the “other kind” of love, it’s just not the focus here) I didn’t particularly feel or respect Porter’s character much either, and that might also have to do with the fact that we are barely given any background on the man at any point. If this is the future of musical movies, please stop the trend before it takes off, and let’s get back to the business of creating interesting characters and stories again.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian