A review of “De-Lovely” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for nudity, adult situations

Run Time: 2 hours, 1 minute

 

 

Irvin Winkler brushes up against a potential masterpiece in this melodramatic and sodden ode to the life and times of American composer Cole Porter.

With the help of a friendly muse (Jonathan Pryce), Porter (Kevin Kline) looks back on his past in the guise of a spectacular stage show.  This is Porter’s life; his music will be your guide.

And how.  Via a long-winded series of flashbacks, the narrative unfurls in stagy theatrics, focusing on Porter’s rocky climb to musical superstardom.  His serendipitous meeting with future wife Linda Lee (Ashley Judd) is the foundation of his success and initially he wears her well.  Their infamous love affair is the stuff that dreams, and dashed illusions, are made of.

Porter desired every kind of love and couldn’t find it one person or the same sex.  He repeatedly hurt Linda by trysting with a series of handsome young men in less than discreet fashion.  With a heedless appetite for life and a talent that knew no boundaries, Porter was a vintage enigma.

An elemental fact not captured by this almost-but-not-quite production.  Kline inhabits Porter’s shell with ease but doesn’t exude his bonhomie or the deep conflict that raged within.  Judd does her charismatic best as second fiddle, but her thunder is swept away by the ostentatious show numbers. 

Trotted out in all their kitschy finery, “What a Swell Party This Is”, “So Easy to Love”, “Let’s Misbehave”, etc. get the royal treatment. Best of show is a hot, hot, hot rendition of “Night and Day”, featuring yet another of Porter’s dubious conquests.

De-Lovely isn’t a bad movie, but it could have been a contender. The narrative is wildly uneven and lacking the necessary spark to pull it all together as a top-notch musical or a melodramatic biography.  De-Lovely is all dressed up with nowhere to go.