6.62 h 5 min2004PG-13
From Paris to Venice to Broadway to Hollywood, the lives of Cole (Kline) and Linda (Ashley Judd) Porter were never less than glamorous and wildly unconventional.
Irwin Winkler
Kevin KlineAshley JuddJonathan Pryce
DramaRomanceArts, Entertainment, and CultureMusic Videos and Concerts
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Irwin WinklerSimon Channing WilliamsRob CowanGail EganCharles Winkler
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.7 out of 5 stars

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johnfReviewed in the United States on March 8, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Great music, thoughtful script, beautiful settings in a worthwhile film.
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“De-Lovely” is an entirely worthy look at the life and songs of Cole Porter that successfully evokes the lavish and sophisticated world in which he lived and wrote. It is very entertaining and relatively truthful to Porter’s life. Hollywood biopics have a rather poor track record and have often been more fantasy than reality and more tribute than truth. As these films go, “De-Lovely” is fairly truthful, including the fact that Porter was gay, a fact that couldn’t even be hinted at in 1946’s “Night and Day”. It nevertheless got mixed reviews and a real drubbing from some critics, a fate I feel it didn’t deserve.

Critics certainly know that what can be done in a book cannot be done in two hours on film, yet some felt the film was superficial and didn’t delve deep enough into Porter’s psyche and creativity. Cole Porter was deep, complicated and moody, just the kind of thing movies generally can’t explore very well. On top of that, film in general seems especially limited in being able to depict the act of composing music. The film was made on a moderate budget for a general audience and did just what it should have done. It was enough to give the audience a good sampling of Porter’s music and world and let them delve deeper on their own if they want to.

Some complained that the music was not in the order it was composed. This is very true but the film’s focus is more on the relationship of Porter and his wife Linda than a career story in which the songs have to be chronological to serve as benchmarks as the career unfolds. In the case of “De-Lovely” the film is conceived like a musical and the songs are used to comment on what is going on in the story and sometimes to set up the next scene. In this way every song is just where it should be. There is enough distance between now and Porter’s era that the correct order of the songs’ composition would only be known by Porter experts anyway. (It becomes disconcerting if the subject is contemporary enough that many people know when the songs came out such as in the recent Elton John biopic).

The decision was made to have popular singers, well known to the public, perform the songs. For the most part this works even though some people objected to this. The popular artists surely helped the box office and the CD was a top ten hit. Most of the arrangements and presentations are faithful enough in referencing the era even if not being completely historic re-creations. Respectful of Porter, they even include their original introductions, which were mostly dropped by the mid-fifties. Elvis Costello had a blast with “Let’s Misbehave” and John Barrowman’s “Night and Day” was one of the high points of the film in its transition from rehearsal to show.

“Be a Clown” provided a fantasy sequence with Porter and Louis B. Mayer on the MGM lot which included his famous quote to George Gershwin that Irving Berlin wrote lots of hit songs so why couldn’t he? Porter is known to have written “Be a Clown” in response to the studio wanting simple, unsophisticated lyrics. ( So in studio logic you naturally hire Cole Porter).It was odd to have “Begin the Beguine” transposed to a minor key in Sheryl Crow’s interpretation, changing it from a joyous dance to a dark, moody piece but I think this was done to create a mood for the scene that follows. It does work in an eerie way but I miss the original. Vivian Green’s “Love for Sale” was a dark dreamtime interlude through what then was a very underground world. It’s presented in a jazz style later than the era, but it works. Caroline O’Connor had fun doing Ethel Merman and caught the sharpness in her voice as well as the volume on “Anything Goes”, which Merman premiered in 1934.

Some critics felt the film didn’t get the facts right, but I would challenge this. Most everything in the film is true with minor exceptions. The set up is fantasy in the first place: Porter, at the end of his life is visited by a supernatural being (well played by Jonathan Pryce) and is taken to a small theater to see a play of important scenes of his life with a cast made up of the actual people. This gives the film leeway enough to include a bit of surrealism here and there (like “Be a Clown”) and to not have to start with his childhood or anything like that. Still, his life and the shows occur quite chronologically.

It skips Yale altogether and begins in Paris. Porter’s extravagant lifestyle and reputation for entertaining is well-illustrated by a gigantic costume party in Venice, where the real Porter rented palazzos in the summer and threw amazing and outrageous parties. In fact he was eventually asked to leave Venice because of these parties. Fellow party-goer Gerald Murphy was a real friend and he and Porter wrote a symphonic jazz ballet together that was well-received. The Murphys (of the Mark Cross fortune) seemed to have entertained the entire Lost Generation at their parties on the Riviera.

The esteem of Irving Berlin was real and his support saved “Fifty Million Frenchmen” from folding. “Paris” was the musical that brought Porter back from Europe and “Anything Goes” (1934) and “Kiss Me Kate” (1948) were his two most stunning successes. Moves to Hollywood and the Berkshire Hills happen when they are shown. The sadder things that happen did happen and when they did I felt a lot for the characters.

Porter’s house in Los Angeles was a colonial much like Westleigh Farms in Indiana and not a Tudor, but so what? The house is the setting for one of the film’s funniest moments when Linda comes home to find that Cole has turned their swimming pool into a scene musch like that at George Cukor’s place. Despite its humor,this is actually a pivotal scene in the film with results that parallel events in real life. The small physical details are very accurate from the Deco cigarette cases to the fact that Ashley Judd’s vintage evening bags were supplied by Van Cleef and Arpels, the jeweler Linda Porter used to call “my favorite department store”.

The greatest inaccuracy is also one of the film’s greatest strengths and that’s casting Ashley Judd as Linda. She was 20 years younger than Kevin Kline and looks it and Linda Lee Thomas was eight years older than Porter and though attractive, was rather matronly. She had a reputation for beauty in an era when beauty was not equated with youth. Ashley Judd looks absolutely wonderful, full of life and incredibly attractive. She also looks stunning in the fashions of the 1920’s and 30’s. She’s excellent in the role as well, vibrant and sympathetic.

The deep affection they felt for each other was noted by everyone they knew and is portrayed well in the film. In this case I think the casting was to overcome the limitations of film. It would be very difficult to get across their mutual affection had a matronly woman been cast and would have probably required extra scenes. With Judd the attraction is self evident and easy to accept, requiring no explanation. Kevin Kline is deeply committed to this role and plays Porter with grace and charm, though I suspect Porter was more fun and mischievous. Kline looks nothing like Porter but Cary Grant in “Night and Day” looked even less so.

I have to take it on faith that Monty Wooley, a close friend of Porters since his Yale days, was so warm and gregarious with his friends. Wooley, known mostly for “The Man Who Came To Dinner” was typecast forever after as Sheridan Whiteside, a vain, pompous, overbearing, snobby and prickly fellow based on Robert Benchley. Also, his famously white beard is black here. I also wonder why the film has Jeanette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy singing “I Love You” in “Rose Marie”. As far as I know they never sang a Cole Porter song in their films. The song was from Porter’s show, “Mexican Hayride”. Perhaps they are there as signifiers of what the mass audience liked in the thirties.

This is a very good film that most anyone who likes Cole Porter’s music will enjoy. It’s a vast improvement on “Night and Day” which completely failed to catch the tone of the era and of Porter’s milieu. You could never say that Kevin Kline channels Cole Porter but it is a thoughtful performance. In some ways I felt the film should have sparkled more, but the filmmakers chose to explore his whole life, not just the wild twenties and thirties, and that naturally gives it a darker but more truthful feeling.
22 people found this helpful
Betti VanEpps-TaylorReviewed in the United States on April 23, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Long Live Cole Porter and His Music
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DeLovely is a timeless film based on the life of Cole Porter that pulls no punches about the man as he was, and the wonderful music he created. Kevin Kline is at his best, presenting the man at many different stages in his life, and there is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek vignette about the much-touted, largely fabricated, well sanitized 1950's (?) film biography that starred Cary Grant, carefully avoiding the fact that Cole Porter, as well as his good friend, Monty Wooley were mostly closeted gay men at a time when the closet was a much safer place to be. In this version, however, we see these men with their genius and their idiosyncrasies portrayed with honesty and empathy, and we are treated to a full repertoire of Porter's wide ranging music, including some of the most powerful love songs ever written. As an impressionable child growing up in the 1940s in an extended family of music lovers who deeply appreciated his work, Porter's songs were indeed the music of my childhood --- and my adulthood -- and remain among my favorites. I had seen this film via television shortly after it became available and most definitely wanted this timeless, beautiful film in my personal collection.
25 people found this helpful
Reviewer6009Reviewed in the United States on May 17, 2015
3.0 out of 5 stars
Kudos to Costello!
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I enjoyed this movie, although as some have pointed out, it was rather bleaker than perhaps necessary. Also, it left out important biographical information, such as Porter's stint at the Schola Cantorum in Paris where he studied orchestration and counterpoint with Vincent d'Indy. (I wonder if those responsible for the film even bothered to look at Porter's classical connections.)

My real objection to the movie was the style of singing and playing in it. For the most part, people were performing in a style more appropriate to the 1950s and beyond than the late-1920s and 1930s (for those scenes set in the 20s & 30s), and there was far too much "belting out" the songs (a generally more recent trend). In some cases, the guest performers seemed heedless of the elegance and subtlety of Porter's music, choosing to showcase themselves. This was off-putting, to say the least.

The most historically accurate, and best in my opinion, performance in the whole movie was Elvis Costello singing "Let's Misbehave." I was very pleasantly surprised by this. The band was pretty spot on and Costello seems to have done his homework on the performance style of the period. Kudos to Mr. Costello!
35 people found this helpful
Just As I AmReviewed in the United States on September 11, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Very glad to see this
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Wonderful film for Cole Porter fans, musicals and biographies. Was concerned in the beginning that Kevin Kline would be singing them but many current vocal artists sang most of them throughout the film. Have been charmed through an entire lifetime by his unique songs; he was truly an original songwriter from the deeply touching to the fun & charming, but the musical nuances of many of those songs were superb in their composition.
Kevin Klein and Natalie Portman were great in their characters. Fun and surprising to see the vocal artists show up for their set in the film. I enjoyed the little stage shows (which often in old movies at least, are sometimes hokey; these were truly good and never too drawn out, more like a surprising emergence into song.
Having seen the Cary Grant version from the 50's of the story of Cole Porter's life, this one was definitely an illuminating biography beyond the of Hollywood film (which was also much loved by me). That one was an attempt to honor the man and show his life but De-Lovely filled in the missing pieces of the story they couldn't tell back then.
The story was told from the end of his life, sort of a narrative of the old man being shown his life, which in itself had a poignant resolution to it somehow. The movie was mostly showing the reliving of his life and when the film shifted from the old man into his memories, the movie flowers into full quality; cinematography, costumes, sets, scenes, music, acting and storyline.
Grateful that it was offered on Prime streaming.
5 people found this helpful
Jayman-TXReviewed in the United States on February 20, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Good movie, great music!
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Cole Porter songs are wonderful melodies interwoven with beautifully crafted lyrics. Sung by contemporary artists, his songs are given new life with the nuance of an old fashioned feel to them. The movie itself is like a Broadway show but I wish it were not.

His lifestyle is something that is hard to understand but his sexuality was accepted (more or less) by his wife Linda although I think Linda had regrets toward the end of her life. It's not depicted as such but really, a husband that goes out at night to sleep with other men was probably torture for her.

Porter was a gifted songwriter but in my opinion, a lousy human being. His artist life and bisexuality were what defined him according to the movie. I read his autobiography and although there were similar incidents in his life depicted in the movie, (horse riding accident, bisexuality, his successful Broadway shows) he was more nuanced than what was presented in the movie.

Overall, the contemporary artists that had a part in the movie had me compelled. Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette, Robbie Williams, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Mick Hucknall of Simply Red and Natalie Cole were given specific characters who sing Cole Porter songs integrated in the movie. It's a good movie but I believe it did not do well in the box office because of poor reviews. Nevertheless, if you like Cole Porter's music, you are going to love this movie. In my humble opinion, I would have liked the movie more had they treated it as a regular movie and cut out the Gabriel character and the absurd Broadway treatment!
7 people found this helpful
Mary M. RoeReviewed in the United States on August 20, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
Further wars and a great depression; the rise of the Soviet Union and ...
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If I was basing this just on the music it would be five stars. Cole Porter was indeed a clever composer. I supposed it is normal for our day and age to over emphasize someones sexual preference, I would have preferred more dwelling on his public than his private life. Sometimes it was hard to follow as it jumped from review, music, present, past and no reference to the times and how much impact that had on his music and his life. There was more emphasis on a riding accident than on the historical events that occurred between 1891 and 1964. He lived in Paris during World War I and even served in the French Foreign Legion. Further wars and a great depression; the rise of the Soviet Union and the fall of empires met nothing in his life according to this film. Instead we are led to believe that the horse accident and the endless line of temporary love interests had more meaning than world events or even the death of his wife.
One person found this helpful
stephen gouvionReviewed in the United States on February 5, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Cole Porter's Life Story via Hollywood
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The stars in this were perfect with the singing and dancing. And it was genius to have all those real singers doing their own versions of CP songs, I wasn't sure but that looked like Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morrisette and of course, Natalie Cole near the end. And who knew how talented Kevin Kline is with all of his piano playing. Ashley Judd was just beautiful and perfect as the ignored wife, so sad. The story did drag by midway but I am not wild about musicals anyway. Still, I would recommend this movie. (by Sue)
T. TinkerReviewed in the United States on May 8, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
Cole Porter Feast
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A feast of superb renditions of Cole Porter's songs performed by masterful popular singers. Includes a rare complete performance of "Love for Sale," a song typically suppressed in popular music venues because of its subject matter. The narrative is a slightly cloying homage to a composer whose life was rather shabby compared to the perfection that was his oeuvre, but the sets capture the grandeur of Porter's wealth, and the dialogue captures the pathos of his social predicament.
5 people found this helpful
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