De-Lovely (January 9/05)
De-Lovely follows the tumultuous life of Cole Porter, but employs a bizarre structure that makes it virtually impossible to connect with anything or anyone on screen. The majority of the film occurs in flashback, with an octogenarian Porter readying a stage play documenting his career. As such, the movie is constantly interrupting itself in order to cut back to the aging composer, who is essentially watching clips of his own life (a la Defending Your Life).
What the film does have going for it, though, are some better-than-expected performances and a visual style that's almost distractingly opulent. Kevin Kline stars as Porter, while Ashley Judd plays his loyal wife Linda - a patient woman who begrudgingly accepts her husband's occasional jaunts into the world of homosexuality. The one-two punch of Linda's cancer and a crippling horseback riding accident for Cole puts a tremendous strain on their marriage, though the two are inevitably unfazed by such obstacles (if they can get past the fact that Cole is bisexual, they can survive anything).
De-Lovely has been directed by Irwin Winkler, who - along with cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts - imbues the film with a very distinctive and overly theatrical look that essentially makes it impossible to connect with anything or anyone on screen. While there are a number of admittedly impressive shots (including a stunning, uninterrupted take featuring a Steadicam and a ballroom), the film is - as a result - almost clinical in its presentation of Porter's life. Consequently, it's impossible to care about a single thing that happens to him - including his bone-crushing mishap.
Kline delivers an expectedly engaging and charismatic performance, often elevating the film to something more than just a dull biopic. Judd is just as good, effectively stepping into the shoes of Cole's wife (and proving without a doubt that she can play characters that aren't gun-toting vigilantes). The supporting cast is peppered with an assortment of real-life singers, including Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow, and Alanis Morissette, who tackle some of the more well known songs in Porter's oeuvre.
De-Lovely is unlikely to appeal to Cole Porter neophytes, as the film seems to require a certain amount of knowledge surrounding his life in order to fully appreciate it.