This musical biography of Cole Porter is the first film that really deals with his bisexuality, which is good and bad at the same time. It's good because it is interesting to see a real life person from the '30s and '40s who was not ashamed about his sexuality. However, the film ends up dwelling on the struggle between Porter's homosexual urges and his love for his wife Linda (Ashley Judd, HEAT). Nonetheless, Kevin Kline (IN & OUT) leads a solid cast, which is lifted up past its problems on the wings of Porter wondrous songs.
The film has an ingenious structure having a dying Porter watching an otherworldly stage production of his life's story. Likewise, the film uses tons of Porter music as dramatic montages of the events in Porter's life. As the screenwriter Jay Cocks (THE AGE OF INNOCENCE) said at the screening I went to, "Porter said it better than I could." In many cases the Porter songs take on more complex meaning knowing they were probably not written solely about a woman. Porter was a worldly man who lived life for all its vices without an ounce of shame. This often made him come off as insensitive, though he never seems to have cruelty in his heart, or apologies on his lips. Cole and Linda had an arrangement, but it seems to be very one sided with Cole able to write emotional lyrics, but not understand them fully. In some way it seems he is in a desperate search of the ultimate love that he can only find in his songs.
Biopics are sometimes tough to make. Sometimes, they're just a highlight reel of the person's life. This film suffers from the opposite problem and seems stuck in first gear about Cole and Linda's relationship. This would be okay if the underlying themes were stronger like in the Iris Murdoch biopic, IRIS. Therefore, DE-LOVELY keeps an audience, which may not know much about Porter, in the dark about what made him so special in context to his place in history. One thing the film implies was that writing hit songs was no more difficult for him than signing his name.
The film is still enjoyable on a surface level. Kline and Judd are quite convincing in their roles and make you care about the characters. Then you get the music, which is the main reason to see this film. Big musical stars like Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and Sheryl Crow all perform some of Porter's greatest tunes. I especially liked Morissette's rendition of "Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love." In the end the film works as a tribute to Porter as a songwriter and an unashamed lover of life in general.