A musical portrait of American composer Cole Porter in which the musician looks back on his life as if it was one of his spectacular stage shows, with the people and events of his life becoming the actors and action onstage. Through elaborate production numbers Porter's elegant, excessive past comes to light--including his deeply complicated relationship with his wife and muse, Linda Lee Porter.
Unfolding as a bumpy, muddled "This Is Your Life" series of confusing, overcrowded tableaus, the new Cole Porter biography gives you the creepy sense of watching adult children (with the singular exception of Kevin Kline, who can surmount any disaster) dressed up in period costume at a school pageant. Although its publicity goes out of its way to pat the movie on the back for its supposed candor about Porter's homosexuality, the film's attitude toward sex is dainty. The heat in a film about the man who wrote "Too Darn Hot" remains a steady, air-conditioned 68 degrees. It can't imagine a wealthy, sophisticated couple marrying for friendship and social advantage without that arrangement involving torment and guilt over its lack of sex. Some two dozen Porter songs are glossed by contemporary singers like Elvis Costello ("Let's Misbehave"), Alanis Morissette ("Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love"), Sheryl Crow ("Begin the Beguine") and Diana Krall ("Just One of Those Things"). If they're not awful, these labored, self-conscious interpretations are undercut by flimsy period arrangements. — Stephen Holden
2004-07-02 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of De-Lovely