This is not exactly a bad movie, but it should have been much, much better. It’s a Cole Porter biopic (an accurate one, in contrast to the earlier Night and Day), starring Kevin Kline and a bevy of wonderful singers including Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Sheryl Crow and Elvis Costello, which sounds like a recipe for a masterpiece, but ultimately it’s nothing more than a polished, elegant bore.
Its main problem is that while Porter wrote some utterly scintillating music, his actual life was not really all that interesting or dramatically viable. Granted, there was the duel tragedy of his wife’s death of cancer and his own crippling riding accident, and both are handled movingly in the film’s haunting fadeout.
But neither of these events come into play until 80 minutes into the movie, and the time before that, while delivered with suitable sophistication and elegance, is rather tedious. They try to wring angst out of the fact that he was gay in a time of rampant homophobia, but given that Porter largely moved in circles where no-one particularly cared that he was gay, and that even his wife was aware and seemed more or less at peace with it, it doesn’t really provide much fuel for the drama.
Compounding this problem is an issue with Kline’s singing performance. Kline, as anyone familiar with his brilliant performance in The Pirates of Penzance knows, is a marvelous singer, but the filmmakers required him to sing deliberately off-key here, on the misguided grounds that the historical Porter was a famously weak singer. I can see what they were thinking, but given that this film’s major appeal is its music and that Kline receives about a third of the vocal spots, it does a lot to sabotage what is otherwise the film’s one strength.
As stated, this is hardly a terrible film, and certainly a huge improvement over Night and Day, but I honestly would have trouble recommending it.