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I am 50 years old, and have been a professional musician most of my
life. Cole porter's heyday was long before I was around, but I was
instantly attracted to his music in my youth, and that love for his
compositions has never ceased.
I know many here are bad mouthing the movie "De-Lovely", and they shouldn't be. There are so many unwatchable, ridiculously bad movies being released nowadays, that De-lovely looks like Gone with the Wind compared to many of them. We have several generations of young people that do not have the benefit of the diverse media many of us older people had when we were young. Back when radio and television use to thrived on diversity. They are now totally market driven toward youth, and offer little diversity. The re-birth of the musical these past few years, is introducing youth to a quality of art that most were not even aware existed. The influence movies like De-Lovely could have on young artist should not be under-estimated. I remember many musicals in my youth that greatly influenced my future career as a musician.
I found De-Lovely to be a delightful movie. I found both Kline and Judd to be excellent in their roles. While the story has taken some lead way with the facts, they got the majority of important points across, and with a lot of style in my opinion. The makers of this movie had to do a balancing act between biography and entertainment. Between telling the story of Porter's life, and paying tribute to his incredible talent as a song writer. I left the movie theater feeling upbeat and inspired. That told me they balanced the two very well.
While I might of chosen a few different singers to sing Porter's songs in the movie, I realize that using known, modern singers helps get youth into the theater, and that's important. The artist they choose to sing Porter's music in the movie, did a wonderful job. While some renditions are a little too modernized, any influence his music has on today's youth is a good thing. Our young people need to know that real works of art take skill, training, talent, and time. Much of todays music is aimed toward an audience with a very short attention span, wanting instant gratification, and to counter that with the music of Cole Porter is a wonderful gift to an entire generation.
This movie works on so many levels. The music, the period, the love affair, and the pain. The story is about Porter looking back at his life during his last moments on earth, he sees it as a theatrical production. Because of this, the songs are not all in chronological order. A few of the songs were placed out of sequence to fit the story line. This idea works splendidly, and it is beyond me why some reviewers seemed to miss this concept completely, and thought the writers messed up. The truth is we really don't know that much about Cole porter. He was not fond of the press, and the relationship between his wife Linda and him was very private. We do know Cole was gay, but loved Linda deeply his entire life. The movie raises more questions than it answers, as it should. Cole was a complicated person, and lived a complicated life. This is movie making at it's best, folks. I recommend this movie highly. I hope Hollywood keeps the musicals coming. It's about time.
As a biography, De-Lovely is not historically accurate, but as drama
and a tribute to Cole Porter, a prodigious talent in musical theater,
it is sublime. Kevin Kline is perfectly cast in spirit as the
songwriter extraordinaire who stormed Broadway as Hollywood beckoned.
His marriage to Linda Porter (a terrific Ashley Judd) is a relationship
of lasting love fraught with infidelity and heartbreak in which Porter
is portrayed as an insatiable artist whose homoerotic dalliances were
legend. The timeline spans the 1920's through the 1950's. This is not
so much a simple biopic but, rather, an interesting depiction of
Porter's constant struggle to find happiness in love and life and it
proves to be an addictive intoxication. As his accepting and
understanding wife grows increasingly frustrated with his lies and
deception amid his growing list of male suitors, Porter's life and
health begin to unravel.
Serving as a framework for the life events is a curious narration of sorts by an aged Porter and a mysterious host/angel (a nice theatrical turn by Jonathan Pryce). This bracketing narration is reminiscent of A Christmas Carol, and there are striking similarities to the classic All That Jazz in narrative and tone. The main story is told in a series of mini-vignettes; some scenes are almost too brief. Then there are the songs. It is truly phenomenal just how many wonderful Porter songs became standards. The recreations of many of his top hits are interspersed throughout the film and are performed often by top vocalists including some amusing cameos by Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Alanis Morissette, and Natalie Cole. The songs serve to parallel and punctuate the life events throughout the story in much the same way paintings served as a co-narrative in Frieda.
Although production values are good for a period and location piece, it feels a little less grand in scope than it ought to be. Perhaps that works in the films favor as a more intimate story. Standout credit goes to the makeup effects especially showing the aging of Kevin Kline's character. The camera work and editing are imaginative especially in a series of circular tracking shots which seamlessly meld one timeframe with another. The music is timeless and enjoyable even when sung in pedestrian fashion by Kline. And regarding Kline, he deserves an Oscar nomination for a richly etched portrait of a tortured soul whose search for true love spanned his entire life. Perhaps in the hands of Bob Fosse or Baz Luhrmann, this could have really launched into a wildly imaginative send-off of a musical genius, but director Irwin Winkler (a respected producer turned director like Alan Pakula) has done Cole Porter proud.
This biography soars toward the Academy Awards on the backs of its producer,
director and actors. Kevin Kline proves you don't have to look like the
"Real Person" to bring his spirit to life and Ashley Judd (contrary to some
unfair and plain wrong reviews) gives us a strong Linda Porter, a complex
and vulnerable Linda Porter who, as is usually the case, finally succumbs to
her life choices with an uncommon grace and courage.
Those people in the audience who had no idea about Mr. Porter's sexual preference, oh'd and ah'd in the beginning. Then they learned that all the talent in the world, all the money in the world, all the joyous hedonism of youth in the world - all of it falls in upon itself as age overcomes and destroys the arrogance of youth.
Irwin Winkler has given us an unflinching portrait of an unusually talented man, an unusual life, and a painful end to that life.
My palms were ice cold and I felt drained as this film concluded - not because it failed as a project, but because it succeeded so well.
DE-LOVELY is not an easy movie but it is a brilliant one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Irwin Winkler's "De-lovely" isn't any more a determined
attempt at accuracy - a biopic with integrity - than was its 1946
romantic predecessor, "Night and Day," a star vehicle for Cary Grant.
"De-lovely" is a truly lovely retelling with much liberty taken of the
life of the great song writer, Cole Porter, and the woman he loved -
and who loved him intensely, Linda, his only wife.
In real life Porter was probably exclusively gay and Linda, a wealthy divorcee bearing sharp-edged, hurting psychical scars from the brutalization she experienced in her first marriage, was happy to settle into deeply rewarding platonic matrimony with the brilliant, witty Cole. Porter here is marginally bisexual and the two are shown chastely but lovingly entwined in bed. Cole and Linda, from reasonably informed accounts, probably never had sex.
What makes this film work are the imagined, powerful performances of Ashley Judd as Linda and Kevin Kline as Porter. The rest of the cast is fine and many songs are bellowed by famous singers but this is Judd and Kline's inspired genius from beginning to end. Winkler drew ecstatically engaging portrayals from these gifted actors. I can't imagine who could have played these roles as Judd and Kline do.
The film begins with an aged Porter watching and commenting on rehearsals of a new production that will showcase his wonderful songs. Is Porter actually alive? The director tells him that his shouted comments can't be heard by the actors. The film goes back and forth to this rehearsal which affects Porter increasingly as the main story follows the couple's life together.
Linda, rich, independent and very smart (as well as glamorous) knew she wanted Porter from their first encounter. When he delicately indicates his attraction to men she responds that she doesn't care-he simply likes men more than she does.
Kline's Porter is a genius but also he's somewhat immature and, as his fame spreads and his wealth grows, innocently insensitive to how his activities create a wall of estrangement between himself and the woman he totally adores. Petty lies replace the earlier openness as Porter is attracted to a homosexual sub-culture.
Judd - certainly one of the most intelligent women acting today - is grippingly compelling as she progresses from divorcee to globe-trotting wife to indispensable muse to a premature death when she's racked by a progressively fatal malady. Folks were crying in the theater today.
Perhaps in wry acknowledgment that he's messed about with the facts, Winkler has the befuddled Cole and Linda watch a private studio preview of "Night and Day" which leaves Porter commenting that it can't be so bad to be played by Cary Grant. But both quietly recognize that their lives have been captured and transformed by Hollywood, reality playing second place to the whims of powerful vulgarians like Louis B. Mayer (who is parodied nicely).
But seminally and for all time Cole Porter was and is about his songs and shows and "De-lovely" offers an almost unending performance of tunes both familiar and not (today's audience, by the way, largely remembered Porter). Both Kline and Judd sing-Kline sounds remarkably like Porter and Judd gives it the good old Phi Beta Kappa try (she's a member). In any event what a "De-lovely" treat to see this extraordinary actress unleashed from her recent past of portraying women victimized by homicidal misogynists.
At the least this film will probably garner the Oscar for costumes. Armani designed the wardrobe and Kline and Judd seem to change for every scene. The whole cast is attired in perfect garb, suggesting the magic of Porter's circle.
Rarely do I leave a theater determined to immediately get a film soundtrack but today I rushed from the Loew's Lincoln Square Theater across to Tower where I scoffed up the disc-I've played it twice already.
Don't miss this drama/musical which shows that Hollywood can still bring beautiful and timeless songs to the movie houses. And do it wonderfully.
The DVD release will have (I hope) many extra and terrific features but even if it doesn't, "De-lovely" deserves repeated viewings.
I am so touched by the beautiful film we have just seen that I'm almost
too overwhelmed to talk about it.
The movie is 'De-Lovely' about the life of Cole Porter, his music and, most of all, about an amazing, unlikely and wonderful love. I don't know how much is true and how much is given to poetic license, but I don't care and I don't especially want to know. I just want to hang on to the heartfelt experience.
I was not alone in my reaction to 'De-Lovely.' In addition to the spontaneous applause at the end of the screening, an astonishing number of people in the audience were still in their seats, savoring the impact, when the last of the credits rolled. 'De-Lovely' is such an integrated masterpiece of movie-making that I will only reluctantly move on to crediting the pieces that contribute to the whole.
Kevin Klein delivers a superb performance playing Cole Porter from middle age into his advanced years. Ashley Judd provides an equally compelling performance as Linda Lee, the woman whom Cole meets and marries early in the film. The story starts in 1920's Paris and includes scenes in Venice prior to Cole and Linda moving on to NYC and the "Great White Way," Hollywood, and finally, Massachusetts.
The sets and costumes, together with direction by Irwin Winkler, transport the audience flawlessly to the time and places of Cole and Linda's experiences. (It was interesting to note that this movie was shot in England and Italy; apparently none of it was filmed in the U.S.A. at all!) 'De-Lovely' also achieves its spectacular success by way of the strong script from Jay Cocks. And, of course, there is the wonderful music of Cole Porter, sung by amateurs Kline and Judd, as well as an impressive, multi-talented array of young musical artists.
You could elect to see this film in order to learn more about the life of Cole Porter. You could go in order to enjoy the songs and show presentations of Cole's music. You could also go to experience the time and places in Cole's life. However, the best reason to go is because this is a wonderful if improbable love story. The story of love evolving and maturing as it is nurtured by Linda's full knowledge and acceptance of Cole's homosexual or bisexual proclivities. Yet, Cole says of his many love songs that they have always been for Linda and we never doubt that it is true. In the end, after their relationship and love has been tested by terrible adversity, they are still there for each other with an ever-deepening love and tenderness.
Rated A+, see 'De-Lovely' for the story of Cole Porter, for travel to a different time and to different places, for the music and mostly to experience the love story. In my opinion, the movie is decidedly de-lovely!
Being a heterosexual male under the age of 70, I normally don't like
musicals, but I like to keep an open mind. Typically, I will only see a
musical if either the movie would be just as good without the music
(e.g. "My Fair Lady", "Fiddler on the Roof", "O Brother Where Art
Thou", all Marx Bros films), or the music is so good that I don't care
about things like acting or plot (e.g. "On the Town", "An American in
Paris", "Pal Joey", all Beatles films). Of course, since I have several
older female friends and relatives, I've seen quite a few musicals
where both the movie and the music are just awful (e.g. "Rose Marie",
"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", "Chicago", all Andrew Lloyd Weber
But "De-Lovely" is the first musical I have seen where both the music and the film-making are so good as to be great. Of course, it doesn't hurt that all the songs are written by Cole Porter, Broadway's finest composer and the subject of the movie. Although the plays and movies he composed for have mostly been forgotten, the songs from them remain immortal in the hearts of true music-lovers of all ages.
And as far as the movie's concerned, it's near perfect. It gives a sly wink to the conventions of the typical movie musical (i.e. never start or end with a ballad; the hero is more articulate when singing than when speaking), but it does not give short shrift to things like plot, acting and emotional resonance. We are treated to tremendous performances by Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd in the lead roles, and sparkling dialog by Jay Cocks. The cinematography is lush and frankly astounding. And the make-up people did a tremendous job. Only when we see Porter at 90 do we think anyone has dyed their hair or is wearing prosthetics.
The premise of the film has put some people off: Cole Porter (Kline) is sitting at his piano at home, preparing to die, when an omniscient director (Jonathan Pryce) tells him he needs to get ready for the show. The show, of course, is the story of Porter's life, strewn with Porter's songs throughout, sometimes done by the characters in the film as part of their dialog, and sometimes done by professional singers as straight performances.
Porter himself, watching the show, complains that this device is too avant-garde for his taste.
Actually, the previous paragraph is not quite right. The show is not about Porter's entire life, only the parts having to do with his wife Linda (Judd). What we see is not the story of a great composer's professional ups and downs. We get some of that, but that is secondary to the story of a gay man who loves his wife as much as he can, and a woman who stays faithful to her husband despite knowing that he prefers having sex with anonymous men than with her.
For literal-minded people, there will be some problems. The real Cole Porter was short, ugly and couldn't sing; whereas Kevin Kline is tall, reasonably good-looking, and a fine singer. Also, although there is no doubt that Porter is having affairs with men, we never see much more than a few lustful glances. And they cut out the more risqué verses of Porter's songs. We do not hear "Roosters with a doodle & a cock do it" (from "Let's Do It") or "I get no kick from cocaine" (from "I Get a Kick Out of You"). And perhaps Elvis Costello and Alanis Morisette don't have the best voices to sing these songs. But these are mere quibbles compared to the movie's strengths, especially as we are treated to Natalie Cole, Vivian Green and Diana Krall doing superb renditions of Porter's music.
"De-Lovely" is the first musical I have seen that I really liked and where I also found myself humming along to the music. Hopefully, there will be more musicals like it in the near future ("Ray" looks promising in this regard. "Phantom of the Opera" does not). And maybe--just maybe--the genre will be once again embraced by people other than older women and gay men. 10 out of 10.
As I think of the many dimensions documentaries have taken recently,
from the ersatz 'Fahrenheit' to the authentic 'Metallica,' I am pleased
to report the biopic remains whole, with Irwin Winkler's ('Life as a
House') 'De-Lovely,' the life in song about Cole Porter and his wife,
I say 'in song' because barely a moment in not accompanied by Porter's music so recognizable I can cite 'Night and Day,' 'In the Still of the Night,' 'Anything Goes,' 'Let's Misbehave,' and 'True Love' without research help or the least provocation. Kevin Kline plays Porter with 1920's tuxedoed charm embracing the true love of his life, Linda, and the many men who helped him fulfill his need to love everything. Kline's refusal to lip-synch or take singing lessons effectively evokes the voice-challenged Porter and the passionate melancholy of a composer who lived for love.
The difference between this version and the 1946 Cary Grant 'Night and Day' is in the hidden homosexuality of the latter and the overt acceptance in the former. Winkler recreates the moment when Linda acknowledges, accepts, and romanticizes Porter's alternative life. About men she affirms, 'You like them more than I do. Nothing is cruel if it fulfills your promise.' This is fine writing by Jay Cocks ('Age of Innocence') and is her love expressed on a plane only Plato could fully appreciate.
Thus Linda defines a story about love as music, a story attempted in 'Evita' and 'Frida' but never so well expressed as in 'De-Lovely.' Although 'Frida' parallels Frida Kahlo's artful life in her paintings, 'De-Lovely' so arranges Porter's music as to suggest each piece was written for that moment in his life. Judd's portrayal relies on her porcelain beauty, wry smile, and serene wisdom in the service of an unconditional love that cost Linda in embarrassment, extorted money, and time away from Porter.
Songs interpreted by Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, and Diana Krall, among others, bring the film into the present with the 'timeless' effect without compromising flawless period depiction of the Jazz Age and Tin Pan Alley. In the end this biopic helped me understand the rewarding and demanding life of Cole Porter, gave me over two hours of glorious song and dance, and made me see again the allure of true love that transcends sex and ego. 'De-Lovely' is 'music from a farther room,' as Eliot's Prufrock would have heard it.
I generally hate biographical films and musicals, but this biographical
musical is one I really liked. From the beginning with Gabriel (I
always love Johnathan Pryce - I never got over "Brazil") and the old
Cole Porter together in the empty theatre, I was sold on the film.
Sometimes flashbacks annoy me. In this case, the interaction
(one-sided, but still there) between the old Cole Porter and his past
made the transition to his life magical and fun. It didn't feel like a
biographical view of his life.
From the opening scene in the theatre, it just got better as it went along. Kevin Kline's portrayal of Cole Porter was rich and nuanced. He seemed to be truly in love with Linda, yet he still had his other side. Ashley Judd as Linda seemed perfect. When the old Cole Porter sees her again, he says, "My god, she was lovely!" and she was. I identified enough with her and with Kevin Kline that I was saddened by her death in the movie. They sold me on their characters. I ended up feeling empathy for Linda; the lovely, lovable and steadfast; and respect and admiration for the Cole Porter figure.
But, what made the movie fly for me was the music (go figure!). It was Cole Porter, release 1.1. A bunch of his great songs were re-arranged and presented by modern singers - all the way from jazz (Diane Krall) to varieties of pop (Elvis Costello). Each of the singers brought a new feel to the Cole Porter songs and really made the movie a pleasure.
When my wife and I finished the movie on the DVD we spent another hour watching all the special features. We both hated to see the movie end. We just wanted it to go on and on. Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom-tom.........
Even if De-Lovely is not historically correct, Kevin Kline's performance is outstanding. The music keeps your feet tapping during the entire film. This is a movie that despite Cole Porter's complex and tragic life, leaves you feeling good. Jonathan Price, as always, gives a terrific performance as Gabe. The idea of "having your life flash in front of your eyes before you die" is carried out seamlessly and even Ashley Judd, though miscast as Linda Lee, who was actually 8-12 years Porter's senior, is a delight. A special mention to the make-up artists, who do a fabulous job in aging the characters over several decades. I will see it probably a few more times....(the CD is also enjoyable. Who can go wrong with Cole Porter tunes?)
As a child of the '30s, I was immersed in Hollywood musicals I bit more
than I appreciated. I loved [still do] good music, a clever lyric, a
moving melody, with a good degree of tolerance for experimentation with
the off-beat and planned discord of a Stan Kenton. Cole Porter always
symbolized meticulous word-play wed to impeccable melodic phrasing.
From the opening scenes, the vehicle of "De-Lovely"'s presentation was both an annoyance and a distraction. Was this a bio trying to become a musical; or was it a musical trying to be a bio? While this last observation may be my own singular and subjective problem, I squirmed mentally as I tried to figure out whether the makeup artists wanted to make Kevin Kline look like an aging Jeff Daniels, or a real-time Carl Reiner?
It would be nearly impossible to destroy Porter's music; the quality is there regardless of the interpretation. However, the matching of score selection to fragments of Porter's life, professional development and composing venues is a tawdry hodge-podge, put together like a 1940s 7th grader who scores 37% on an American History matching-columns exam. Some of the costumes, stagings and vocals are ludicrous: the costuming and set design for the Venetian duet, two people who appear not to like each other or the fit of their costumes; and the feeble-voiced crooning of a "Mountie" [Nelson Eddy - sound alike]: NOT!
Then there is the presentation of Porter, the man [Kline] and his long-suffering wife [Ashley Judd, excellent with the role she's given]. We can accept the idiosyncratic behavior of genius; we can appreciate a reasonable degree of self-absorption; we can empathize with a free spirit, suddenly crippled and dependent on others. Mrs. Porter knew exactly what she was getting when she entered the marriage; and while we can empathize with her fraying patience, we might expect a bit more fire from a woman whose husband is presented as sexual and social gadabout concerned only with his own gratification, except when the deeper muse is upon him. Finally, there is the staged number with Louis B. Mayer, which itself, would make the MGM lion dyspeptic. Porter may have been an intellectual snob; and Mayer may have been a boorish bully, but Mayer wasn't stupid.
Even in its presentation of Cole's homosexuality, we are introduced to a trite parade of pretty boys; and, within this shallow presentation, we are expected to see deep, caring relationships. It's been years since I've read a Porter biography, but the viewer might better have been served by suggestion: a lone Porter, for example, headed for the city tenderloin, or a seedy bar down by the waterfront, with the camera fading without further graphic explanation. Porter's encounters weren't all that "pretty."
Ahhh, the music. For me there were three show-stoppers, among them Elvis Costello's "Let's Misbehave." My wife and I, both 21+ X 3 + a bunch. thoroughly enjoyed Sheryl Crowe's minor key and roving "Begin the Beguine." It was a refreshing treatment of a Porter standard, which, although cleverly composed and worded, had become cliché in its title and too rigidly fixed in its arrangements. Crowe tosses out her usually fragile vocalizing; shows her musicianship in her rendering, and best of all, sings and phrases as a mature woman, not a whining little girl. Whether the precise Porter would have approved, I can't say; but Crowe gives the song a well-deserved rebirth.
Best of all is the top-notch performance of "Let's Do It," by Alanis Morissette: her vibratto; her full-of-fun, carefree delivery; her meticulously clear enunciation of the fast-flowing words are superb. The lady nails it!
The movie is a terrible disappointment; but it's not the music that brings it down. It is the trivializing of a privileged, yet tragic life. Its sole salvation is the wedding of gifted contemporary vocalists, with priceless old standards; and it may bring about performance revitalization and longevity enhancement for both.
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