Movie Reviews
12:28 pm
Wed July 14, 2004

De-Lovely

The allure of true love that transcends sex and ego!

As I think of the many variations documentaries have taken recently, from the polemical "Fahrenheit" to the realistic "Metallica," I am pleased to report the biopic remains more or less whole, with Irwin Winkler's ("Life as a House") "De-Lovely," the life in song about Cole Porter and his wife, Linda.

I say "in song" because barely a moment in not accompanied by Porter's music so recognizable I can cite "Night and Day," "In the Still of the Night," "Anything Goes," "Let's Misbehave," and "True Love" without research help or the least provocation. Kevin Kline plays Porter with 1920's tuxedoed charm embracing the true love of his life, Linda, and the many men who helped him fulfill his need to love everything. Kline's refusal to lip-synch or take singing lessons effectively evokes the voice-challenged Porter and the passionate melancholy of a composer who lived for love.

The difference between this version and the 1946 Cary Grant "Night and Day" is in the hidden homosexuality of the latter and the overt acceptance in the former. Winkler recreates the moment when Linda acknowledges, accepts, and romanticizes Porter's alternative life. About men she affirms, "You like them more than I do. Nothing is cruel if it fulfills your promise." This is fine writing by Jay Cocks ("Age of Innocence") and is her love expressed on a plane only Plato could fully appreciate.

Thus Linda defines a story about love as music, a story attempted in "Evita" and "Frida" but never so well expressed as in "De-Lovely." Although "Frida" parallels Frida Kahlo's artful life in her paintings, "De-Lovely" so arranges Porter's music as to suggest each piece was written for that moment in his life. Judd's portrayal relies on her porcelain beauty, wry smile, and serene wisdom in the service of an unconditional love that cost Linda in embarrassment, extorted money, and time away from Porter.

Songs interpreted by Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, and Diana Krall, among others, bring the film into the present with the "timeless" effect without compromising flawless period depiction of the Jazz Age and Tin Pan Alley. In the end this biopic helped me understand the rewarding and demanding life of Cole Porter, gave me over two hours of glorious song and dance, and made me see again the allure of true love that transcends sex and ego. "De-Lovely" is "music from a farther room," as Eliot's Prufrock would have heard it.