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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.48%
Worth A Look: 22.95%
Pretty Bad: 18.03%
Total Crap: 4.92%

6 reviews, 25 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"Song, Dance, and Death"
2 stars

As a swinging, small-time musical composer in the early 1920s, Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) ruled the Parisian nightlife with his witty combination of songs, bubbly charisma, and sex appeal. Cole soon meets his match in Linda (Ashley Judd), a divorcee who finds Cole’s songwriting gifts intoxicating, falling in love with the composer even with prior knowledge of his homosexual desires. Linda gives Cole confidence to reach for the big time, creating legendary Broadway shows (“Kiss Me Kate,” “Anything Goes”) and finding riches in Hollywood. However, their relationship is severely tested when Cole’s preference for men clouds his connection to Linda, threatening to disrupt his amazing talents for writing music.

As a biography of composer Cole Porter, “De-Lovely” doesn’t follow the traditional route of morbidity that most bio-pics select. The colorful picture is more of a carnival of song, dance, life, and pain than a definitive account of Cole’s passionate life. Yet this picture is armed with something that the previous Cole Porter account, 1945’s sketchy “Night and Day,” did not have: The inclination to explore Cole’s bisexuality.

Though Porter was a man known around the world for his vivacious music, director Irwin Winkler (“Life as a House”) and screenwriter Jay Cocks (“Gangs of New York”) are more interested in what made the iconic songwriter’s bowtie twirl in the bedroom. “De-Lovely” is a predominantly an examination into the relationship between Cole and Linda, and how their marriage of convenience backfired on them, destroying their trust and intimacy in the process. Winkler indulges a large amount of screentime detailing these sexual leanings and complications, which disrupts the picture’s balance between wannabe musical and straight up bio-pic. Since the film doesn’t cover Cole’s formative years, or, for that matter, much of his final ones (the picture’s storytelling device is Cole, dead, watching the events of his life unfold in front of him on a stage), taking up so much time with one facet of his life doesn’t show the film or the man much respect or desired depth.

Thankfully, to compensate for Winkler’s odd preoccupation with Cole’s sexuality, actor Kevin Kline gives a full-throated interpretation of the artist. Kline’s acting here is masterful; he glides across the screen with an ease that raises a good argument that perhaps the actor was Cole in his previous life. Kline takes Winkler’s clumsy direction and makes it shine with his charisma and ease handling the pricklier elements to Cole’s personality, including his ardent perfectionism when it came to his stage productions and depression from a horse accident, which broke his legs and his writing clarity towards the end of his life. Matching Kline well is Ashley Judd, who takes the tepid “suffering wife” role and injects it with some class, finding emotional corners to Linda the filmmakers often choose to ignore.

What “De-Lovely” truly desires to be is a musical. Song and dance numbers are interspersed throughout the film, with notable music talents like Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Sheryl Crow, and Robbie Williams handling the vocals for such hits as “Let’s Misbehave” and “It’s De-Lovely” when Kline (who perfectly mimics Cole’s limited vocal range) cannot. Winkler integrates these star appearances pleasantly, weaving them into the fabric of the movie delicately, rather than having them become unwelcome diversions away from the subject. The rest of the numbers are imagined as Cole’s fantasies, involving customary dance choreography and undeniable energy. This is when the sluggish dramatics keel over and the Cole’s flawless gifts rise to the forefront. And that’s the only way to appropriately tell his story.

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originally posted: 05/01/11 01:06:05
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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.

User Comments

5/25/11 xfather123 C7ybFR this is delisious! xfather123 2 stars
9/02/10 L. Slusarczyk Love Kline in this and the music. Wish there was more Barrowman :D 5 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Neutered, covertly homophobic drivel! Porter must be turning in his grave! 1 stars
3/19/07 Ed Brusaw Loved it. Loved it. Loved it 4 stars
2/28/06 Rich Milczarek An exhilarating tribute to the genius of Cole Porter - Kline is De-Lightful! 5 stars
12/31/05 tatum Kline's good, but Porter's life isn't put into context 4 stars
8/08/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Love for sale sequence is pure genius. The rest falls a bit flat. 4 stars
8/04/05 Captain Craig Anyone who doesnt think this film is fabulos probably liked Star Wars! 5 stars
3/07/05 ad nicely done 4 stars
2/20/05 David Siegel A disappointing, sometimes confusing quasi-biopic that finds the pathos and loses the joy. 2 stars
2/01/05 Kenneth Hannan Gorgeous, touching film. 4 stars
2/01/05 Alison Mosbeck Not nearly as good as I'd hoped...Finding Neverland was much better 2 stars
1/29/05 darlenecom I had been so looking forward to seeing this one. 3 stars
1/18/05 Leon Hoffman Powerful! Poignant! Out of this musical world! 5 stars
10/19/04 Misty De Meo It's de-lovely. ;3 It had some rough points, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 4 stars
10/05/04 cpu Gorgeous, fantastic music, clunky sure, but it's a MOVIE! 5 stars
8/23/04 Bruce Lamb Boring and pretentious. Frame plot was stolen from All that Jazz. No suspense. 2 stars
7/26/04 Ogden Nield Superbly done enactment of Porter's eccentric life. Oscar performances by Kline and Judd. 5 stars
7/24/04 buddy garrett The music is great. Cole Porter is acted well. 4 stars
7/20/04 Suzz kline is great; imaginatively staged;current singers did not do Porter justice 5 stars
7/15/04 dt great songs and look of period-I liked it a lot 4 stars
7/04/04 ZF Stilted, static, shallow, no depth of character. And the music was usually performed badly. 1 stars
7/03/04 Boyinthedesignerbubble The Porter biography is a good read, the movie, sadly leaves out interesting facts. 3 stars
6/23/04 Lauren Nissen Maybe it was because I had to pee really bad, but it never caught my attention. 2 stars
6/15/04 Brent Usry Throw a few big names on the screen, use a great camera and pray for distribution. Pathetic 1 stars
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  02-Jul-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2004



Directed by
  Irwin Winkler

Written by
  Jay Cocks

  Kevin Kline
  Ashley Judd
  Jonathan Pryce
  Angie Hill
  Sheryl Crow
  Elvis Costello

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