Blithe Spirit rises again to tickle new generation – Boston Herald



Rated PG-13. At Landmark Kendall Square and on VOD.

Grade: B

Yet another production of Noel Cowards perennial Blithe Spirit (the first film adaptation was directed by David Lean), this latest effort features Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann and Academy Award winner Judi Dench, a pretty impressive lineup to be sure. The film, like the play, which has been revived more times than Count Dracula, and broadcast on radio and TV and made into a stage musical (directed by Coward), was directed by Edward Hall, who lists among his credits Downton Abbey, where Stevens used to hang his hat.

Stevens is Charles Condomine, an author famous for his Detective Flowers series, who is remarried after the death of his first wife Elvira (Mann) to Ruth (Fisher). He and Ruth live in an art deco mansion on an English hillside, while he writes in a second house on the property. They have two servants, an angry cook named Edna (Michelle Dotrice) and a jittery maid named Edith (Aimee-Ffion Edwards). Ruths father (Henry Kunz) is a film producer for whom Charles is writing, or make that not writing, a screenplay. Charles has been terribly blocked since the death of Elvira, who is an American here, in a riding accident. Charles and Ruth go to the West End to see the act of a medium by the name of Madame Arcati (Dench), a spiritualist, who claims to have the power of levitation.

When the act is exposed as a fake, Madame Arcati agrees to hold a seance at Chez Condomine for its owners and their friends. Things go terribly awry, and the ghost of the first Mrs. Condomine appears and refuses to go back where she came from. Only Charles can see and hear her, something the film is a bit lazy about.

Cowards bickering-married-couples-past-and-present dialogue remains sharp and witty, and can also be a bit moldy at times. Charles is experiencing sexual block as well as the writing kind. Ruth, who gets dosed by Elvira with an aphrodisiac, is jealous of her dead predecessor. The three leads have chemistry and give the dialogue, adapted for the film by Nick Moorcroft and Piers Ashworth of the rather lame St. Trinians reboots and Meg Leonard, a run for its money.

Dench in a role previously played by the likes of Estelle Winwood, Geraldine Page and Angela Lansbury, gives Arcati a regal bearing mixed with a longing for a long dead soldier.

Coward took the 1941 plays title from Shelleys poem To a Skylark. The new film is set in 1937, two years before Britain entered World War II. The writers have added visits to film studios, where we fleetingly encounter Alfred Hitchcock and a few others. But they do not amount to much.

It is strange that no one notices a ghost drinking cocktails. Stevens is fun, but wont make anyone forget Rex Harrison. Still, its hard to kill Blithe Spirit. It just keeps coming back. The Lean film, adapted by Coward, Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan, came up with an even better ending than the play. Hall was smart enough to retain it.

(Blithe Spirit contains sexual references and drug use.)

Read more:
Blithe Spirit rises again to tickle new generation - Boston Herald

Related Post

Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
This entry was posted in Dracula. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.