The biopic has been done before… repeatedly. We have all seen dozens of biopics – if there's a famous person whose life may be remotely interesting, why not making a movie out of it? The only real question then becomes, if you're making a biopic, how do you go about making it interesting. The answer for director Irwin Winkler and writer Jay Cocks in putting together a biopic on Cole Porter is to do it as Cole helping orchestrate a stage a musical about his life. The result of this effort, De-Lovely, is nothing less than highly entertaining even if it isn't the most illuminating.
The film stars Kevin Kline as Porter and Ashley Judd as Linda Lee Porter, his wife. What the film is more notable for however is that the majority of the songs are sung by well-known singers. From Robbie Williams to Sheryl Crow to Alanis Morissette to Elvis Costello and Vivian Green, every time someone who isn't Kline or Judd open their mouths to sing it's a cameo appearance and unfortunately all too often relegated to the background as nothing all too serious takes place in the foreground.
Essentially, what this results in is two big missed opportunities. First, there's the fact that Porter was obviously a musical genius and the singers they've gotten to perform his songs here are outstanding. These are performances that should be heard in their entirety, not simply there to give a little bit of flavor to the film and to make you want to go out and buy the soundtrack (which I've owned since the film's theatrical release and listen to on a semi-regular basis). Then there's missed opportunity number two – if you've opted to have old Cole Porter looking back at the life of young Cole Porter why not give old Cole more than a couple of opportunities to complain about how things are being depicted or to lament his actions? The frame is the perfect way to provide a way in to the man's thoughts and show the audience what Porter felt internally. It's an opportunity simply not used to its full potential and consequently terribly disappointing.