Beyond anything else about the flick, "De-Lovely" opens terribly. We see an old Cole Porter (Kevin Kline, under a ton of make-up) approached by some sort of angel (Jonathan Pryce). The angel mumbles some sort of nonsense about how "this is your life" and leads the old Cole into a theater where he's viewing the young Cole. He yells at young Cole (despite him not being able to hear) and watches a musical of his life go on, irritated at elements that don't match with his memories. It's a corny idea handled poorly, turning it into enough cheese to fill Wisconsin (nothing against Wisconsin.) The scene is painfully bad, but thankfully, the movie recovers - at least a bit.
In flashbacks (although we occasionally go back Old Porter watching the production), Young Porter meets up with divorcee Linda (Ashley Judd) in Paris, and the two begin a relationship that, even with marriage, never really became anything more than a good friendship, as Porter was attracted to men. Despite not having a conventional relationship, as Porter went with other people, the two were there for one another. It's not long before Porter's career takes off, leading the couple to move to New York City and eventually, Hollywood. Throughout the show, various musicians - Elvis Costello, Diana Krall and Alanis Morissette - come on to sing Porter's tunes. They do fine work, but their presence calls a bit too much attention to themselves, and takes one out of the flick momentarily.
"De-Lovely" is presented in a pretty airy manner - there's really not a whole lot of substancial conflict in the movie (as the story is presented here) and everything is presented in a pretty straight-forward, conventional manner by Irwin Winkler, a director not exactly known for his visual style ("The Net"). The picture's pacing is off, too - at 125 minutes, the movie feels overlong and noticably slow at points - especially the beginning.
The performances, however, are pretty good. Kline sinks into the role of Porter and really gives it a solid try - he's really the only energetic thing in the movie. Judd is fine, but less impressive, but a little less devoted to the role. Neither character has as much complexity as written as one might expect from this kind of biopic, though. Supporting efforts are satisfactory.
Overall, there's just not much to say about "De-Lovely". The performances are fine, the picture looks okay (there's just nothing really imaginative about the look of it) and the movie tells the story in a pretty dry manner. It's decent viewing, but I can't help feel someone else at the helm could have made this story into a more compelling viewing experience.
VIDEO: "De-Lovely" is presented by MGM in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is fine but, like the movie, some flaws keep it from being all it could be. Surprisingly, for a recent theatrical release, I noticed the occasional minor speck and mark on the print used. Some minor-to-mild edge enhancement was visible, as was some minor pixelation.
Definition and color were more positive aspects of the presentation, however: the picture appeared largely crisp and clear, although the picture never seemed razor sharp and the occasional scene looked slightly soft. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones remained natural, while black level looked solid.
SOUND: "De-Lovely" is presented by MGM in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack delivers what's expected from the material: surrounds kick in to help deliver the music, but the majority of the audio remains spread across the front speakers. Audio quality is fine, as the music was crisp and full-sounding. Dialogue and sound effects also seemed well-recorded.
EXTRAS: The main supplemental features are two commentaries: one with director Irwin Winkler and writer Jay Cocks and the other with director Irwin Winkler and actor Kevin Kline. There's also four featurettes: "Making of De-Lovely", "Music of De-Lovely", "Anatomy of a Scene: Be A Clown" and "Anatomy of a Scene: Love For Sale". Rounding out the supplements are 9 deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), a soundtrack spot, the film's trailer and a list of recommendations for other MGM titles.
Final Thoughts: "De-Lovely" doesn't offer too much insight into its subject and the events proceed without enough visual style or energy. The performances are pretty satisfactory, though. MGM's DVD offers a lot of supplements and fine audio/video quality. A rental for those interested.