Film Reviews

DE-LOVELY

By • Jul 2nd, 2004 •

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MGM Films / MPAA rating: PG-13 / Running time — 125 minutes

QUOTE: The Porter’s sexless marriage means the film is sexless.

You would think director Irwin Winkler and writer Jay Cocks would know a Hollywood couple who could have given them insight into a straight/gay marriage. Seeing this movie you are led to believe that when a woman marries a gay man the only thing she must be tolerant of is his insistence on singing at parties and his glancing at cute waiters.

Okay, maybe there is a slip in decorum now and then, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Irwin Winkler’s film starts off all wrong with a very old, wheelchair-bound Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) sitting at his grand piano. He is a sad, lonely man. He misses his wife. A strange man, Gabe (Jonathan Pryce), comes in unexpectedly and takes Porter to a theater where he is rehearsing singers for a musical play about the composer’s life. Is Pryce Broadway’s Angel of Death?

Already I hated it. Why not just tell the story in a straightforward manner?

Porter, his voice cracked with age, interrupts the play when Gabe gets sometime wrong and we are magically transported back in time. Cole meets the gorgeous, rich, recently divorced socialite Linda (Ashley Judd) in Paris. It is 1918 and everyone is fabulously wealthy and gaiety abounds. He is singing to the guests. Thankfully, I have never seen anyone do this in real life. Though once I was horrified when a friend’s wife sang loudly on line waiting for the tram in New Mexico. I grabbed on to my husband, I didn’t know what the screeching was.

Even though Linda has heard the stories about Cole’s sexual predilections, she wants to marry him. He wants to marry her because she is gorgeous.

Linda becomes Cole’s devoted muse and indulgent champion. The Porters lead a very glamorous life and Linda gives Cole a jeweled Tiffany cigarette case before every opening. He has a long career and lots of opening nights.

This film celebrates the Porter’s glorious and enviable marriage without bothering to give us any insight into why it worked for 40 years. Winkler and Cocks don’t have a clue. Did the saintly Linda lust for fame-by-marriage?

Ashley Judd was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and gave some informative clues when questioned by Stewart: Linda was an abused wife. She might have been turned off to men. She was not gay herself. Well, an abused wife as a co-star in a musical just will not do here.

Was Cole so fascinating – perhaps like Oscar Wilde? – that Linda basked in the afterglow? Was he a rich socialite’s arm-candy? No, no, no, says Winkler and Cocks.

Their marriage endured for 40 years because they adored each other. Sure, Cole was unfaithful, but Linda didn’t mind as long as he came home to sleep every night. If only being married to a famous gay man was this easy!

We know differently, don’t we? As Linda succumbs to her illness, she even selects a companion for Cole. The interior decorator is equally devoted to Cole.
Who knew writing show tunes garnered so much worship?

Yes, Cole Porter wrote many wonderful songs and we are given terrific renditions by Alanis Morissette, Diana Krall, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello and Natalie Cole. Ashley Judd sings as well. Thank goodness the audience did not break out in song.

Can the unwashed masses really feel sorry for a carefree socialite who wildly gallops off on a horse and falls? In 1937 a horse riding accident crushes Cole’s legs and he must undergo years of operations. Linda suffers from emphysema. Cole stays by her side throughout her illness. She dies in 1954.

Perhaps delving too deep would have dredged up rather non-romantic motives. Perhaps it is the intention of the filmmakers to present to the audience that you can have such a life-long commitment and devotion without mudding it up with animalistic sex.

I have known gay men all my life but I have never known a gay man as portrayed by Kline. He just does not seem sexually attracted to men. Isn’t this a problem? Judd responds to every line of dialogue as if she were bestowing a blessing or title. Where is the natural rage Linda must have exhibited even once in her long marriage to a flamboyant man? Oh yeah, Kline isn’t even flamboyant.

I saw an advance screening of DE-LOVELY at the 2004 CineVegas Film Festival. The audience loved it.


CREDITS:
Director: Irwin Winkler
Screenwriter: Jay Cocks
Producers: Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowan, Charles Winkler
Executive producers: Simon Channing Williams, Gail Egan
Director of photography: Tony Pierce-Roberts
Production designer: Eve Stewart
Music: Cole Porter
Costume designer: Janty Yates
Editor: Julie Monroe

CREW:
Cole Porter: Kevin Kline
Linda Cole: Ashley Judd
Gabe: Jonathan Pryce
Gerald Murphy: Kevin McNally
Sara Murphy: Sandra Nelson
Monty Woolley: Allan Corduner
L.B. Mayer: Peter Polycarpou
Irving Berlin: Keith Allen

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