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:: De-Lovely

De-Lovely is an over-long, poorly structured biopic that works far better than it should, thanks to a diverse array of musical performances and an honest examination of its complex subject, composer Cole Porter. The film follows Porter’s life – from his carefree promiscuity in 1920s France, where Porter (Kevin Kline) woos wife to be, Linda Lee (Ashley Judd) – to his solitary death in the 1960s.

Porter’s cavalcade of memorable musical numbers are performed in a variety of ways by big name artists and segue between more conventional biographical development – introducing a structure which in some ways reflects the indulgent personality of the composer himself. When Alanis Morissette does a show-stopping version of “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love”, and Robbie Williams sings “It’s De-Lovely” at Porter’s wedding, the songs add colour to the story of Porter’s life, and also serve to progress the action.

The music is a welcome distraction from the soap opera-style plot development. The latter involves impressario Gabe (Johnathan Pryce) showing the ghostly Porter a rehearsal for a musical based on his life. This is the least successful part of De-Lovely, but the scenes are short and improve in quality as the film progresses.

Unlike the sanitised 1955 Porter biopic starring Cary Grant, Night and Day, Porter’s sexuality is centre-stage in De-Lovely. A man whose music is a reflection of his hedonistic personality, it’s most likely that if Porter were alive now, he’d be gay, although it’s clear that Porter had strong agape (affectionate love) for his muse Linda Lee. It’s the music and the essential mystery surrounding the affections of this genial genius that make De-Lovely interesting, entertaining and worth the price of admission.