Worth A Look: 22.95%
Pretty Bad: 18.03%
Total Crap: 4.92%
6 reviews, 25 user ratings
by Laura Kyle
In Finding Neverland, you've got a brilliant, possibly a-sexual artist who is restless in marriage. In De-Lovely, you've got a brilliant, possibly bi-sexual artist who is restless in marriage. Both films are based on true stories. One of these films is excellent. One of these films co-stars Ashley Judd.I'm not sure if a movie ever yearns to be labeled "pleasant"--and I'm sure De-Lovely was hoping its title would inspire critics everywhere to call it "lovely." But De-Lovely is way too complacent to be anything more than a slightly enjoyable, but ultimately unimpressionable and forgettable affair.
When the era (roughly -- the 1930's) upstages the actors and the story, you know you've got a problem... but at least it's a pretty problem! In other words, the scenery is really pretty and Ashley Judd wears some pretty dresses. Too bad De-Lovely isn't a 25 cent postcard.
It's also too bad Ashley Judd forgot to act. Her performance is completely de-void of charm; I think she must've paid the makeup crew to plaster a wide, though quite unnatural grin across her face, for the entire duration of the film. Well, that's not true --she did break her smile sometimes, on the account of lines she had to say. And there's one really awkward scene where she cries. All of that stuff could have been edited out though, without hurting the movie one bit.
Which is a shame -- because Judd has a complex female role to work with here (in that she plays a woman who unconditionally loves and supports her husband, even though she can't be assured the feelings are mutual, due to the fact that her husband likes men... a lot... good stuff, right?). And in Hollywood, those kinds of roles are about as rare as blue M&Ms... in a bag of skittles.
Maybe she just forgot what it feels like to act. Or perhaps her acting coach, the one who got her through Double Jeopardy, High Crimes, and Twisted, wasn't of much help for a movie that demands at least five facial expressions.
Kevin Kline, on the other hand, seems to be struggling for air in this cardboard box of a movie. While Judd appears to be taking "subtle" to a whole new, enormously dull level, Kline desperately tries to get to us. But unfortunately, De-Lovely has such a bland script (thanks to writer Jay Cocks, credit where it's due!), and tag on a stilted performance by Judd -- even Kline can't rescue De-Lovely from its plainness.
And he can't seem to figure out De-Lovely's tone either, so as to hint to us what it is. Which sucks, seeing as how the filmmakers do a cruddy job at delivering any kind of emotional impact -- perhaps they were too busy choreographing the dance numbers. In fact, if it wasn't for the always-persistent music underlying each scene, I'd say De-Lovely was utterly tone-deaf.
This happens, then that happens, then this happens, then that... you get the picture. But a moviegoer has no real affection for the people involved in the "this's" and "that's." So then, no one gives a damn about "this" and "that." (That'd make a fairly good song right there.)
However, there was the occasional scene where all involved were right on the money and there are lots of things De-Lovely gets 100% right, and director Irwin Winkler deserves a more than a lil' respect. I can't imagine having to work your film around song cues. And that's just what he does.
Cole Porter was a composer (think "Kiss Me Kate"), by the way, and De-lovely is a biopic about him. And Porter's music basically sets up and bookends every snippet of spoken dialogue.
So, if you're not a fan of Porter's music or musicals in general -- steer clear of De-Lovely. But if you happen to be a fan, you'll appreciate the clever structure in which the characters function... even if you don't think it gives Porter, the actual human being, an ounce of justice.
Whether or not you'll appreciate the cameos by the year-old popular music stars trying to revive their careers by singing Cole Porter songs on a movie set... Alanis Morissette, ahem... is totally subjective, and I'm not going to comment. (Did I mention Alanis Morissette sings Cole Porter? Of course, she's played God before, so whatever. It's just all a little iron...)
I doubt you could scrounge together more than fifteen minutes of De-Lovely that doesn't include some sort of singing, whether it's by the cast of one of Porter's musicals, or by Porter himself; and Kline has a nice enough voice (though he's not any more of a singer than your drunk uncle) to keep moviegoers okay with this very melodic, stylish method of storytelling (especially if you're like me, and always stop to listen to the piano player at the mall). And for this alone, De-Lovely has considerable appeal -- albeit, for a narrow audience.If you want a good based-on-a-true-story, see Finding Neverland, The Aviator, or Ray. If you like to look at pretty flowers, clothes, and also listen to old-fashioned love songs, for a good hour and a half straight, rent De-Lovely. Just know that boredom will visit you often (remember: the grayer Ashley Judd's hair gets, the closer to the end...). Oh, and not to mention, you won't have a single opinion about Cole Porter afterward.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9597&reviewer=369
originally posted: 01/29/05 10:14:23
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.