2 min

Let’s do it

Let's make a movie focussing on Cole Porter's gayness

'NIGHT & DAY.' In the new Porter biopic starring Kevin Kline, there's a parade of pop stars - from Elvis Costello and Diane Krall to Alanis Morissette - singing his classic songs with mixed results. Credit: Xtra files

Don’t let the first half-hour of De-Lovely scare you away. Kevin Kline, in what looks like an Albert Finney mask, is a dying Cole Porter. Jonathan Pryce, in full Miss Saigon mode, is a hallucinatory razzle-dazzle man. I won’t say more about their laborious routine except that it over-preps us for what is an intriguing, stylistically sophisticated biopic.

Unlike the 1946 travesty Night And Day (in which a wooden, nauseated Cary Grant portrays a straight Cole Porter), De-Lovely not only addresses but focusses on Porter’s gayness. He was torn between his taste for hottie boys and his loyalty to his muse/wife Linda – and it’s this conflict that drives the movie.

Kline, sans Albert Finney mask, is the Cole Porter Cole Porter would have fancied. He relishes the role. When he sings “Night And Day,” “Experiment” and “It’s All Right With Me” to a series of impressionable young men, the result is compelling. And with sweetie-pie Ashley Judd, oddly miscast as taskmaster Linda, he enjoys a sexual chemistry that’s delightfully inaccurate. This is a musical after all… as Pryce keeps hammering into our heads.

There are more than 30 Porter songs featured in this film, many of which are performed by current pop artists. Alanis Morissette is the standout for me; her coy rendition of “Let’s Do It” is spirited and refreshing (and what an adorable dancer she is). The other high-light is young Lemar delivering a haunting “What Is This Thing Called Love.” Elvis Costello’s “Let’s Misbehave,” however, feels effortful, and Diana Krall sucks the kick out of “I Get A Kick Out Of You.” (How long do you give that marriage?)

It’s impossible to discuss De-Lovely without revisiting Red, Hot And Blue, the 1991 video-compilation created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Porter’s birth and to promote AIDS awareness. This televised special makes a perfect supplement to the movie. In De-Lovely, Natalie Cole’s rendition of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” is melancholy enough, but nowhere near as heartbreaking as Annie Lennox’s version. And as cute as Kline and Judd are chirping “Well Did You Evah!” they’re no Iggy Pop and Deborah Harry. This show is worth tracking down.

And to complete the whole Porter bio experience, Night And Day is out on DVD. Go to scene 31 and enjoy the only engaging sequence in the film: Mary Martin’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” routine. And for a good laugh, zap to “the riding accident” (Cary Grant’s horse had it much worse than Kevin Kline’s horse). Special features include the flamboyantly square Musical Movieland (in which we meet mounted police keeping the peace), a romp with the Desi Arnaz Orchestra and a Cole Porter trailer gallery chock full of dazzling moments. Check out Fred Astaire’s spectacular piano number in Broadway Melody Of 1940. Now there was the chap to play Cole.

* De-Lovely opens on Fri, Jun 25.