One of my least anticipated films of 2004, "De-Lovely" is quite a pleasant surprise. Starring Kevin Kline as composer Cole Porter and Ashley Judd as his wife Linda, this original music is a mild delight and offers some of the best performances of the year.
"De-Lovely" explores the life of Cole Porter in the most interesting of ways. The film starts out with Porter as an old man as he recounts on his life, not through flashback but through the rehearsals of a stage production. Urged to watch the difficult moments of his life by the stage manager (Jonathan Pryce), the musical that is Porter's life unfolds before us. As what seems to be the case with a lot of these artistic geniuses, he enjoyed love and leisure but also suffered through difficulties in marriage and infidelity.
The film never achieves greatness, but at times it comes close. Boosted by some of the best performances seen from Kline and Judd, the audience gets sucked into their characters' story. Though competition is always tough, both actors are deserving of award nominations; both merited their Golden Globe nods for this movie.
Aside from the acting, the other powerful star of the film is the music, which helps guide the story from minute one. I am not a big fan of "older" music, nor am I an expert, but the popular songs from Porter's careers deserve the credit. They are strong, bold and at times mesmerizing; the music makes the movie.
"De-Lovely" also maintains a good dramatic mood without ever losing the lightheartedness of its lead character, but the first hour is definitely more interesting than the second. More than anything else, the story of Cole Porter, as mentioned before, is similar to others like his - he marries a beautiful and loving young woman, his experimentation (homosexuality) and carelessness threaten to tear the marriage apart and eventually old age or sickness catches up with them and sadness ensues. Regardless of the truth of the story, it is a story that has been told before and "De-Lovely," especially in the third act, never really tries to do anything different.
Despite being a little long and slow in the second half, the acting and music make "De-Lovely" one of the better films of 2004. It isn't for anyone, but those who like musicals will not be disappointed.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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