Published Jul 01, 2004De-Lovely attempts to set the record straight about the unconventional love story between songwriter Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) and his wife Linda (Ashley Judd). He was gay - and continued to have many, many affairs throughout their marriage - while she was his muse and greatest supporter. De-Lovely takes a "this is your life" approach as a "director" leads the aged, crippled Porter through the major events in his life. The dialogue is (I think) intentionally formal, mimicking the language of Porter's musicals. The result is a stiff and ungainly script that never lets the audience past the fancy tie and cocktail veneer or the elaborate world of make believe. There's no mention of any outside events, no war or Great Depression - they are encased in a timeless capsule. We have no idea what year they meet or how long they live. We learn next to nothing outside of their marriage or why they make their choices. Linda is a woman clearly driven and well connected but we know nothing of her other than she escaped an abusive relationship.
The musical numbers are elaborate and plentiful, and the best thing in the film, despite some serious missteps. Jonathon Pryce as the director/angel Gabriel is utterly wasted. Elvis Costello and Robbie Williams mug for the camera. Alanis Morissette's performance is good but she doesn't suit the time period at all. Diana Krall just looks awkward and uncomfortable (and why, oh why, would they ask her to act?). While they are trying to create a staged environment that reflects the world that Porter created in song - that we can make beautiful in art things that rarely work in real life - the result is dismal and slightly embarrassing rather than magical. It was a good instinct to let Porter's extraordinary music tell the story but not when the script and direction are so lacklustre. It's hard to be carried away when more than half of the film falls flat. (MGM)