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Review byMatthew Turner28/09/2004

One out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Dreary, disappointing and overlong biopic that doesn’t do justice to its subject, despite a decent performance by Kevin Kline.

Biopics (pronounced “BIO-pic” or “Bi-OP-ic”? The debate continues) appear to be all the rage at the moment, what with both this and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers released in the same week. However, if it’s hot biopic action you want, you’d be much better off with the Peter Sellers movie because De-Lovely is frankly, de-dreadful, despite the best efforts of Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd.

Second Biopic Of Porter

De-Lovely is actually the second biopic of songwriter Cole Porter – the first, Night and Day, was made in 1946, during Porter’s lifetime, and starred Cary Grant, which obviously pleased Porter no end. However, Night and Day failed to even hint at the fact that Porter was homosexual and is therefore regarded as a bit of a joke today.

To its credit, De-Lovely at least redresses that balance, although it still refuses to give any depth to any of Porter’s male lovers, instead concentrating on his relationship and 38 year marriage to socialite Linda Lee (Ashley Judd).

De-Lovely is a horrendously misguided film from start to finish. The opening scene alone is enough to make you seriously consider making a dash for the exit: an elderly Cole Porter (Kevin Kline in dodgy ‘Old Man’ make-up) sits by his piano in a darkened room, waiting for death. Suddenly, Jonathan Pryce shows up, playing a character called “Gabe” (yes, that’s right, it’s the Angel bloody Gabriel again) and, being a bit of a music fan, takes Cole to see a theatre revue of his life. (Vomit bags not provided; supply your own).

Extremely Dull Script

The script, by Jay Cocks, is extremely dull and we get no sense of Porter’s wit or charisma – indeed, it’s impossible to see what Linda saw in him in the first place, much less why she married him. Kline and Judd both do their best under the circumstances, but Winkler fails to inject any energy into the project and the overall result is flat and lifeless.

The film is also starved of a decent supporting cast – it positively cries out for a host of cameos by stars playing 1940s actors and directors, but instead relies on its central gimmick of having big name singers such as Elvis Costello etc perform Cole Porter numbers throughout the film. As such, De-Lovely starts to resemble an extended advert for its own soundtrack CD, which would be fine if the numbers were decently staged and performed but most of them are at best jarring and at worst unwatchable.

In short, De-Lovely is dull and disappointing – ultimately, it is aimed more at the fans of the musicians involved than at anyone wanting to know more about Porter himself. Indeed, fans of biopics involving Old Hollywood-types would be well advised to cross their fingers and wait for Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator instead – it’s due later this year.

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Content updated: 16/11/2019 02:24

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