This past weekend has been a pretty heady mixture of feelings - Friday brought a temp assignment at a health-care provider, complete with warm and caring coworkers, a free lunch, and plenty of networking. Yesterday brought news that a friend of mine will be moving soon, having gone through his own dark night of the soul. It was a mixture of joy, melancholy, and almost melodic in its arrangements.
In other words, very much like a Cole Porter tune. No wonder De-Lovely has been in constant rotation in my DVD player. (And to be honest, I've never really appreciated Porter - in fact, the closest I've come is an old 7-UP ad which used "De-Lovely" and an obscure Monty Python sketch).
It seems as if the bio-pic is being reinvented, focusing less on the facts of a person's life than on creating an "impression" of how someone lived. This movie's spiritual cousin is Ray - focusing on a musician as a complicated human being, and being less concerned with "getting it right". (It helps that a previous attempt at a Porter film biography, Night and Day, missed the mark during a simpler time in Hollywood). However, De-Lovely is as close to a "cutting edge" movie musical as one can get - we see Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) and "Gabe" (Jonathan Pryce) overseeing a "musical" based on Porter's life.
Soon, however, Cole meets his soon-to-be wife, Linda (Ashley Judd), and from there, it becomes a very unconventional love story. She's leaving an abusive relationship; he's seeking love in any form. (Please note - homophobes and Michael Medved will not like this movie. It actually handles adult sexuality in an adult manner. God forbid that should ever happen). It would be easy to fall into the cliche of "art-reflects-life", but this movie deftly handles those moments, and actually becomes one of those movies where you're constantly checking your watch...because you don't want the movie to end.
Great example: Porter explains how to sing "Night and Day" to an actor (John Barrowman, who is the object of many a man-crush). Within a few minutes, due to Irwin Winkler's direction, we are given much information - the way the song is written; the growing attraction between the two men; and the movement from rehearsal to final show. Imagine a movie filled with scenes with deft touches (such as the slight Marxisms during "Be A Clown"), and you'll get a great sense of how this movie handles its material.
Of course, handling Porter's songs is another clever touch, the only major misstep being Alanis Morrissette's mangling of "Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love." (Her voice quavers, and this is material that demands straightforward delivery). Robbie Williams delivers a slightly Dr. John-ish "De-Lovely", Elvis Costello sounds almost playful on "Let's Misbehave", and Diana Krall...well, let's just say Elvis has good taste in women. But the highlight is Sheryl Crow's "Begin the Beguine", turning it from a major-key celebration into a minor-key, jazzy meditation. (When the movie encourages you to purchase the soundtrack...that's a good thing).
Luckily, De-Lovely should have moved from the "New Release" shelf - this is definitely a movie catching this weekend. It will leave you absolutely in a delightful, delicious, de-lovely state.
This is a movie that's easy to love.