The good news is that, even if De-Lovely’s narrative were completely missing in action, it would still be worth a viewing for its first-class productions of Cole Porter’s music, featuring performances by several contemporary artists like Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, and Natalie Cole. The even better news is that the story of De-Lovely, tracking the last fifty years of Cole Porter’s life, is also worth your attention.

It doesn’t begin that promisingly. Starting a bio-pic at the end of the subject’s life or the height of his or her success, and then telling the story in flashback, is probably the oldest cliché in the genre. Fortunately, De-Lovely manages to put its own unique spin on this device, playing out the scenes as a musical about Cole Porter’s life in front of an aging Porter (Kevin Kline) and a theatrical producer named Gabe (Jonathan Pryce).

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The film’s story begins with Porter’s first meeting with his wife Linda (Ashley Judd) at a posh Paris party. The connection between them is almost immediate. She loves him enough to look past that fact that Porter is openly homosexual. He’s a steady, non-threatening replacement for her abusive ex-husband. As she puts it, “You like men more than I do.”

The film does gloss over the fact that their marriage also freed up funds from Porter’s apparently disapproving mid-western family as well as the speculation that Linda was likely a lesbian herself. It definitely makes a better story with the pure, non-judgmental love portrayed in the film.


I’m not sure if the fault lies with the writing or with Linda herself, but midway through the film she leaves Cole because his dalliances with men had become insufficiently discreet. However, his indiscretions really aren’t portrayed that well, so either the film was too timid to show the extent of his lifestyle or the lady just protested too much. I’m inclined to think the former, since the film otherwise remains true to the general facts of his life, tracking him from Paris to the height of his success on Broadway and then on to Hollywood, through his separation with Linda and his crippling horse riding accident.

The film does twist reality somewhat, occasionally incorporating Porter’s songs into full-blown movie musical numbers as well as live performances realistically within the context of the stories. Kline is even called upon to sing a few times. I have no idea how good a singer he is in real life, but he’s only asked to be as good as Cole Porter was, which wasn’t very, and thus acquits himself more than adequately. Judd is also effective as a woman whose open-mindedness has consequences for which she wasn’t prepared.

This rather liberal mixing of forms and genres makes De-Lovely a film that’s really neither fish nor fowl. It may not be your cup of tea but the music should overcome a lot of objections.

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