‘Blithe Spirit’ evaluate: Noël Coward traditional fizzles

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Noël Coward’s 1941 play “Blithe Spirit” is traditional materials: a screwball comedy a few thriller novelist with author’s block, who’s haunted by his late first spouse after she is inadvertently summoned by a medium. The play has been staged quite a few instances on the West Finish and on Broadway since its debut, filmed as a film starring Rex Harrison in 1945 and tailored right into a musical, “Excessive Spirits,” in 1964. The continuing revival continues with Edward Corridor’s movie model, starring Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher and Leslie Mann.

On this specific adaptation, the play has been given a Hollywood twist, with the novelist, Charles Condomine (Stevens) struggling to jot down the screenplay of one in every of his works for the producer father of his spouse, Ruth (Fisher). When the couple attends the paranormal present of Madame Arcati (Judi Dench), they discover her to be a fraud, however Charles thinks observing the tips of her commerce would possibly supply some inspiration for his writing. In the course of the séance, Madame Arcati summons the spirit of Charles’ first spouse, Elvira (Mann), who perished in a driving accident.

That’s the setup, and high-spirited hijinks ensue as Elvira and Ruth enact their petty jealousies throughout the astral aircraft. Solely Charles can see Elvira, although she proves her existence, and her mettle, fairly nicely regardless of her invisibility. She drives Charles mad along with her ghoulish gags and chronic insistence on being seen by him, inflicting quite a lot of rude embarrassments. It’s “Ghost” as a British comedy of manners, however as an alternative of a husband defending his spouse, the spirit is a vengeful socialite decided to get her due.

Stevens, Fisher and Mann are gifted comedians; these roles are one thing they may do of their sleep. Which is why it’s a bit disappointing that the movie doesn’t push the fabric, or the performers, out of this fizzy, dizzy however by some means fairly fundamental adaptation. Stevens can do “wild-eyed genius” in circles round every other actor; the identical goes for Fisher and Mann’s bubbly charms. It’s simply that we’ve all seen them do far more fascinating, bizarre and interesting performances, and nothing in Corridor’s “Blithe Spirit” pushes them out of that consolation zone, nor does it actually push this well-known materials (the script is by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft).

The excellent star right here is the jaw-dropping manufacturing design by John Paul Kelly. Joldwynds, a surprising white modernist house in Surrey, designed by Oliver Hill in 1932, serves as the Condomines’ house. The interiors have been painted mint inexperienced, royal blue and cotton-candy pink and furnished with jewel-tone velvet items. It lends playfulness, wit and elegance to the movie, and the luxurious visuals, additionally enhanced by Charlotte Walter’s wonderful 1937-era costumes, create the heightened actuality during which this outrageous rom-com is about.

This “Blithe Spirit” tangles with problems with authorship and the muse, and who will get credit score for what in artwork, a subject that has surfaced repeatedly lately, in movies similar to “The Spouse” and “Malcolm & Marie,” although in fact it’s been a thorny query because the days of Scott and Zelda (Fitzgerald). However any trenchant observations to be discovered on this “Blithe Spirit” solely pop and poo into skinny air like Champagne bubbles. Although effervescent, it’s a bit too ethereal for its personal good.

‘Blithe Spirit’

Rated: PG-13, for suggestive references and a few drug materials

Operating time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Enjoying: Begins Feb. 19, Cinelounge Drive-in, Hollywood, and in restricted launch the place theaters are open; additionally on digital and VOD

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