"This is one of those avant-garde things, is it?" says a droll, dubious and dying Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) as he sits in an empty theater at the beginning of "De-Lovely," watching his life pass before his eyes on the stage, in a production conducted by an enigmatic, ironic, ethereal director named Gabe (Jonathan Pryce).

The answer to his question is a delighted "yes." This film is an imaginative, deconstructionist, celebratory musical biography woven together from elements of theater, meta-cinema, chamber drama and Porter's own MGM musicals with gratifying -- if deliberately glossy -- results.

Kline opens the picture as a frail but feisty old man (the age makeup is remarkable) who, as he watches his own story unfold, is alternatively tickled ("Oh, look, it's an opening number!"), critical ("He'd never wear that! Change it."), fondly reminiscent and pained by regret. And the actor also plays the younger Porter in the bulk of the picture, which has a merry, dreamlike quality to its stop-and-start interactions with the elderly Porter and his theatrical spirit guide.

Continue reading: De-Lovely Review