Cole Porter (1891-1964) was one of America's most gifted and prolific songwriters of all time. He enjoyed an enduring career during which he produced such beloved classics as Let's Do It, Night and Day, I Get a Kick Out of You, I Love Paris, Anything Goes, In the Still of the Night, You're the Top, I've Got You Under My Skin, Just One of Those Things and From This Moment On, to name a few.
Starting with America First in 1916, Porter authored more than a dozen Broadway productions (not counting his numerous posthumous revivals), including The New Yorkers (1930), The Gay Divorce (1932), and Anything Goes (1934). He met with just as much success in Hollywood, where the four-time Oscar-nominee adapted many of his plays to the big screen, charting original scores for memorable musicals like Paris (1929), Rosalie (1937), Silk Stockings (1957), and Kiss Me Kate (1953).
Furthermore, the Cole Porter songbook has figured prominently in over 100 additional films such as The Singing Marine (1937), High Sierra (1941), Don't Fence Me In (1945), Night and Day (1946), Adam's Rib (1949), Sunny Side of the Street (1951), and Can-Can (1960). Given his substantial contribution to this country's cultural legacy, it is understandable that there might be interest in the details of his private life, especially since he was homosexual in days when gay men married mostly for respectability.
De-Lovely, however, as directed by Irwin Winkler (Life as a House), is less a revealing bio-pic than a highly-romanticized version of actual events. Thus, this sanitized tale tends to pander to the mores of the less tolerant times in which it is set. The story seems superficial as a result, for it fails to do much more than scratch the surface, at least in terms of its protagonist's admittedly self-indulgent affairs with a never-ending string of male lovers.
Disclaimers aside, De-Lovely is still an engaging mix of fond remembrances and nostalgic musical numbers. Academy Award-winner Kevin Kline (for A Fish Called Wanda) delivers a sterling performance as the conflicted Cole opposite Ashley Judd as his long-suffering, socialite spouse, Linda. Courtesy of revisionist history, their sexless understanding is plasticized beyond recognition in order to make Porter's song lyrics appear as though they had been consciously designed as a thinly-veiled running commentary on a meaningful marriage.
Taking substantial liberties with the truth, Winkler's Linda is presented as irresistibly attractive and much younger than her husband, when in fact the fifty-something divorcée was considerably older. Plus, while the film suggests that Cole might have married for money, he was already the filthy-rich, only son of the wealthiest man in the entire State of Indiana.
If you ignore the plot and just approach the flick merely as a 21st Century Busby Berkeley-style musical, you will not be disappointed. The film arrives replete with elaborate dance numbers and about 25 on-screen renditions of Cole Porter's greatest hits by exceptional singers such as Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, and Simply Red's Mick Hucknall who manage to breathe new life into the much-beloved standards.
Although the doors to Mr. Porter¹s closet are merely cracked open here, nobody probably really really wants to see an unexpurgated tell-all tarnish the name of a genius who ought to remain best remembered for his enviable ability to combine clever lyrics with unforgettable melodies. De-Lovely? De-Lightful!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality
Running time: 125 minutes
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Audio commentary by director Irwin Winkler and Kevin Kline, audio commentary by Director Irwin Winkler and scriptwriter Jay Cocks, "The Making of De-Lovely," "The Music of De-Lovely," "Anatomy of a Scene: Be a Clown" and "Anatomy of a Scene: Love for Sale" featurettes, deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.
To see a trailer for De-Lovely, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxncdtqjs6g
To order a copy of De-Lovely on Blu-ray, visit Amazon