A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has explicit sexual references for a PG-13. A theme of the movie is Porter's life as a semi-closeted gay man and the stress this put on his relationship with his wife. There is also a reference to a miscarriage (including some blood), the (offscreen) death of a child, and severe injury resulting from a horseback-riding accident. Characters drink and smoke a great deal (one dies of emphysema).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Is it any good?
On the asset side, we have the glorious songs of Cole Porter, the most urbane and elegant composer-lyricist of the 20th century. He's the top. And we have suitably elegant and urbane production design, with sets and costumes that help to tell the story. Unfortunately, we also have a script that keeps getting in the way of the story. Yes, I know that the previous attempt to film Porter's life was 1946's highly fictionalized Night and Day, with Cary Grant (Porter's own choice) playing the lead. But the fact that the first movie left out Porter's homosexuality is not a reason to make it the main theme of this version. The over-emphasis of Porter's sexual orientation in this film goes past disproportionality into the category of weirdly obsessive. All right, he was gay. But what about all the other things we'd like to know?
The music is, well, de-lovely. But the numbers are not well handled. Perhaps in an attempt to follow in the tradition of Oscar-winning hit Chicago, the songs are pointedly, even ham-handedly intended to comment on the events of Porter's life, which is not inaccurate in showing which songs were written when but also diminishes the songs' ability to tell their own story. Too many of the songs are given to Kline, a gifted musician and singer who went for authenticity (Porter was not a good singer) instead of musicality. For the rest of the songs, there is some stunt casting of pop stars, and most of them do very well. Alanis Morrisette's Olive Oyl get-up and reedy, Bjork-ish rendition of "Let's Do It" does not work as well as the smooth and smoky "Begin the Beguine" by Sheryl Crow, the silky Diana Krall's "Just One of Those Things," and the mischievous "Let's Misbehave" by Elvis Costello. But even the best of these renditions, the highlight of the movie, are spoiled with too many cuts. Just buy the soundtrack CD instead.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what drew Cole and Linda to each other. What did each of them want from the relationship? What did each of them get? Families may want to discuss Cole's bitterness at the end of his life. Would he have been so bitter if he had spent more of his time differently? What do people have to do to maintain a sense of satisfaction and the ability to continue to develop relationships with others at the end of their lives?
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