The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

De-Lovely

I survived the kids' first full day of schoollessness by taking them to the mall to meet my mother for lunch, then turning them over to her entirely so that I could go to the movies with apaulled in the evening. The mall was very crowded -- I got the impression that a lot of other parents and babysitters with kids only recently freed from school were there killing time. I bought the kids the novelization of Shrek 2 and myself Harry Potter et le Prisonnier d'Azkaban, which Borders happened to have; I had read Harry Potter a l'Ecole des Sorciers a couple of summers ago and it is almost exactly at my French reading level, and I would rather not forget what French I know, so it's perfect.

Then we went to De-Lovely, meeting up with vertigo66 and her husband, though we didn't exactly get to have dinner with them -- scarfed food in lobby and theater -- as we had to get there very early to make sure we could get decent seats at the free screening which was packed in the art house cinema. The film is quite as lovely as the title would suggest if a bit strange, a biopic musical which reminds me a bit of Evita in structure, particularly since Jonathan Pryce -- Madonna's Juan Peron -- plays another somewhat formal character. The music is absolutely wonderful and the acting is great, even Ashley Judd, about whom I was lukewarm, though this is Kevin Kline's movie and his emotions while performing are far more convincing than any of the others, but that's probably a function of the songs all being his character's POV no matter who is singing them.

I think it's difficult to maintain a consistent tone in a musical of this sort, particularly when so many of the songs are comedic or have upbeat melodies even when the subject matter is quite serious. I have similar issues with both Chicago and Moulin Rouge so it's entirely possible that this is just my issue with serious movie musicals, though I didn't have it at all with Jesus Christ Superstar or Hair so maybe it has to do with the style of the music. There's a Barnum-like segue in De-Lovely from a musical number to a character death, which drags down the song yet leaves an odd feeling of levity over what comes after. The most effective moments are the wry ironic ones, not the great tragic or joyous ones.

So the feel of the movie is a bit odd -- I didn't cry, and I was ready to -- but there are also some hugely powerful moments, in part because of the nature of the love story. Porter was married, and gay, and it's impossible not to feel sorry for him given the social situation of his era, but at the same time the film tries to construct his wife as the great love of his life and makes him look rather insensitive to her feelings, even though she knows what she's getting when she marries him (and her ex-husband gets a few seconds of screen time just to establish that Porter got her away from an utter bastard). None of Porter's male lovers is particularly well-developed nor particularly sympathetic until the last one, when it's difficult to say whether there's any sex or just hero worship going on.

Still, the emotional nostalgia factor is extremely high, both in the music and lyrics themselves (there's a lot of torch songs, very strongly associated with older gay subculture) and for me as a viewer because I've known the songs for so many years and have so many personal associations for them. "True Love" is a fanfic song for me going back a decade, and also makes me think of someone I adored a very long time ago. That number, as sung by Kline, is a musical highlight of the film, as are Kline and Judd's "In The Still of Night", Sheryl Crow's smoky dark "Begin the Beguine", Elvis Costello's snappy "Let's Misbehave" and Alanis Morissette's brassy "Let's Do It" (not one of my favorite songs but an entertaining number). Diana Krall, Robbie Williams and Natalie Cole also sing, and there are funny portrayals of Ethel Merman and Louis B. Mayer. The historical sets are beautiful and the staged numbers work very well, too. I feel like perhaps I've been overly critical of the film here -- it's a lot to take in during a single viewing, and I'd like to see it again, because I have a feeling this may be one where things hit harder when you know what's coming.

That Mary Sue meme: Use fanfiction.net's Search Story By Summary and look up your name in either Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. If there are any Mary Sues that share your name, pick the worst-sounding one and post the summary. In both these fandoms I'm afraid to say that there are just too many Mary Sues with my name to skim them all! Most of them sound like this LOTR fic, "Somewhere I Belong": "When Michelle takes a trip with her senior class she never expected to end up in the Undying Lands! And what happens when a search and rescue party turns out to spell disaster for the elves? Can Michelle unlock her past to save her future?" Then there are a bazillion Harry Potter fics with my name as Mary Sue...and also a heck of a lot of Michelle Branch songfics in both fandoms, which I would not have anticipated!

A couple of points of amusement: ios_pillow_book decided to celebrate "Bloom's Day" somewhat differently, and I was quite amused. And from The Onion: "J.K. Rowling Ends Harry Potter Series After Discovering Boys"!
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