'Delovely' is an interesting portrait of Cole Porter and his wife, Linda, played out against a backdrop of Cole's songs from various musicals. The film is framed in a tryptych manner -- the first act is the Paris/Venice time; the second act takes place in New York; the third act in Hollywood. In between are minor scenes fleshing out the life of the Porters.
Cole Porter was born in the late 1800s, and came to prominence in the same post-war, roaring 20s ages that also saw people such as Irving Berlin and Noel Coward. He met the desirable and socially-connected divorcee Linda Taylor in Paris; their marriage seemed from the outside rather idyllic, but there was a secret. This was a marriage of love, to be sure, but not lust. Cole Porter was gay, not really even bisexual, but gay. While this came as no surprise to Linda, over time Cole's attachments to his other loves threatened the integrity of their relationship in Linda's eyes.
Cole Porter tried to be faithful to three things -- to his wife, Linda; to his music; and to his own identity. These did not always fit well together. Even though faithfulness to Linda meant emotional and relationship attachment rather than sexual fidelity, even here, Cole's attachments to some of his lovers would become strong enough to warrant Linda wanting a change; unfortunately for her, Cole was able to find a gay life no matter where they moved. Linda's ultimate reconciliation to this came from her recognition that Cole's life, like his music, couldn't be restrained. Cole's ultimate regret was that he couldn't find the perfect someone, that his love was always meaningful but not always satisfying.
Kevin Kline's protrayal of the conflicted Cole Porter is a very good one; Ashley Judd's Linda is very sensitive and stunningly portrayed. Jonathan Pryce is the shadowy director, who pieces together the life of the Porters in a montage in front of an aged Cole, not quite in flashback, but in time-sequence inspiration. We as the audience watching with Cole are introduced to major figures in his life, including some of his lovers (but only peripherally), and many of his friends, but most figures remain undeveloped save for Cole and Linda.
The sets, the scene sequence changes from 'actual' to 'stage', and the scene-shift tone of character are all very effective. Cole Porter's running commentary on his own life helps provide an historical framework as well as an emotional one; the narrative is carried by both the relationship interactions and the songs -- Cole Porter put so much of his own life into the songs. He claims at various points that they were all written for Linda; Linda, ever the realist in the shell of an idealist, knows better, and says so.
While much of the story, the sets, the costume and even the credits are done in a style of the 1920s and 1930s (Art Deco is a prominent, recurring theme), the music did not take on this style. More in the tone of 'Red, Hot, and Blue', the Cole Porter-themed tribute album of the late 80s, the songs were often modern renderings of old standards, but modern stars such as Elvis Costello, Alanyis Morrisette, and Sheryl Crow. There are a good number of pieces performed by Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd themselves, Klein performing them as the less-than-stellar-singer Porter himself might have done them. While the music being performed in more modern arrangement jars a little bit with the more time-bound theme of the film, it is still effective in the sense that Porter's music is timeless in many ways.
The movie drags a bit at times, but it covers the long stretch of Cole Porter's career, and his marriage with Linda from beginning to end. Romance with a decided twist, this is a somewhat sad film, in that despite the obvious love around the characters in the film, no one is finally satisfied with such love. And still, it is de-lovely.