first musical biopic of the summer has arrived. Itís time to pay tribute to
one of songwritingís greats. And passionately, or at least one would hope.
In fact, the director of De-Lovely, Irwin Winkler, has, perhaps, too
much of a good thing, resting in his hands. Performing the songs of legend
Cole Porter are Alanis Morissette, Robbie Williams, Natalie Cole, Sheryl
Crow, Elvis Costello. The film certainly has a star-studded soundtrack. The
music is heavenly; unfortunately, it becomes boring, in context. Real fast,
too. Itís got no solid structure supporting it, no feet to stand on.
De-Lovelyís promising concept could not have been handled in a more
Everyone involved in the project, except Winkler
and screenwriter Jay Cocks, clearly tries their best to disguise
De-Lovely as passable entertainment, in fact. I felt bad for Kevin Kline
and Ashley Judd, who are so wonderful here, you can feel their
presences. Good acting can rarely make up for lack of substance, though, and
on that level, De-Lovely is as shallow as Paris Hilton carrying a
Prota-bag. The usually masterful Cocksí (Gangs of New York, The
Age of Innocence), in particular, should be ashamed of himself. Covering
up the fact that there is no emotional richness in his script with zingy
one-liners may appear to be just jolly to the average viewer, but I was
sickened by the technique.
Of course, De-Lovely cannot go without
exposing Cole Porterís bisexuality. Ironically, though, this makes for
several of the filmís high-points. Kline and Judd play the Porter couple and
their sense of intimacy, during discussions of Coleís urges towards men, in
the key quiet moments, is dazzling. Together, they capture fear, but also a
kind of euphoric excitement, in their relationship. Itís hard to pinpoint
puts on the best show in De-Lovely; the obvious choice would be
Kline, because the film focuses on his character. I think I prefer Judd,
though. She is groundbreaking in her depiction of both numbing vulnerability
and hidden, ferocious ambition. Judd is definitely responsible for one of
the best performances of the year, so far. Talk about attempting to carry a
movieís weight on your shoulders.
Still, even being able to realize the vastly human
sides of Cole and his wife, Linda, I felt empty, watching De-Lovely.
Every scene feels stunningly superficial in almost every aspect, aside from
acting. Iím convinced that the movieís odd concept of storytelling is
responsible for this. All of the sketches featuring the famous Porter, are
presented as if they are a part of a movie/play (to be honest, I couldnít
figure out what the hell it was) that an old version of the songwriter is
watching. For me, this made the experience devoid of all potential emotion.
I remembered that the material I was viewing was a mere rendition of
Porterís life, and hence, could not become engaged in it. And without
capturing an audience member, a filmís chances at poignancy plummet.
De-Lovely is a plainly average motion
picture, and perhaps thatís why itís so unbearable. Maybe Iíve been too
harsh on it, in this review, but does that make my gripes any less
artistically justifiable? At the end of the day, I cannot find many
differences between De-Lovely and a brain-dead, big-budget, summer
blockbuster. They may fall into different categories, as films, but share
the same obsession with stylizing intelligence, and fail as a result. This
movie may be interesting enough to suffice for a worthwhile cable-viewing,
sometime in the future, but it rarely had me hooked. That simple fact, in
itself, accounts for one hell of a problem.
-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.20.2004)
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