The latest adaptation of the Noel Coward play Blithe Spirit is released on Sky Cinema this month, and offers a fun distraction for those stuck at home in lockdown.
The plot follows struggling writer Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens) who has been tasked with adapting one of his books into a screenplay by his father-in-law, a wealthy film producer. When he and his wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher), take the evening off to try and clear his head they go to visit a medium, Madame Arcati (Judy Dench). Despite seeing her act go wrong, and seeing that she relies on theatrics and trickery to wow her audience, Charles sees a lot in her that he likes.
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It’s then that Charles has the idea of working ghosts and mediums into his story, and invites Madame Arcati to his house to perform a seance, so that he can see how she does it. However, things don’t quite go as planned when Madame Arcati accidentally summons the spirit of Elvira (Leslie Mann), Charles’ first wife. Now with her spirit refusing to leave, Charles’ life begins to spiral out of control as his dead wife fights for his attention and affection.
The plot is a bit ridiculous, and the film absolutely leans into how silly things are, and this less than serious tone definitely helps the whole thing land. The film has a sense of silliness throughout, even before the ghost of Elvira arrives on the scene, though once Leslie Mann appears on screen things get turned up to eleven, thanks in no small part to just how hammy she is.
Mann seems to be having a lot of fun playing this part, with her ridiculousness and over the top acting, and it’s not hard to imagine that a lot of her laughter was very real. This is the kind of role that allows the actor to really cut loose and just play around a lot, and she breathes a lot of life into the character of Elvira because of it – which is kind of ironic as she’s never seen alive during the whole film.
The film really relies on this sense of fun to keep you entertained, as the plot itself is pretty thin on the ground, but writers who have adapted Coward’s work have really tried their best to add more to the original play and give viewers something more to keep them entertained. At times this works, such as when we get to follow Madame Arcati as she tries to research a way to get rid of Elvira’s spirit for good, but the arguments that ensue between Charles and Ruth can sometimes get a little grating and feel repetitive, and you’ll probably find yourself shaking your head at the characters at least once or twice as you just beg them to put aside their silly arguments and just talk to each other about the problems they’re facing.
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Outside of the characters the film is a genuine treat to look at, with some great production values and exquisite design. The film really uses its 1930’s setting well, with lavishly decorated sets and beautiful costumes to help set the scene. Charles and Ruth’s house is wonderful piece of 1930’s architecture that instantly transports you to the period with very little work being needed, and the various costumes that Elvira cycles through in her ghostly form range from the over the top to the sleek and elegant. Whilst Ruth comes across as a regular, though well off, woman of the 30s, Elvira’s costumes shows how much of a socialite she was, and she conveys a lot of the ‘swinging’ energy of the era well.
Blithe Spirit might not be the best film I see in 2021, but it never really let me down, and kept me entertained throughout, with some laugh out loud moments thrown in too. Because of that, it’s the perfect film to start the new year with, something fun and harmless, that has a great cast having a lot of fun with the material.
Blithe Spirit, a Sky Original will be released on Sky Cinema on 15th January. It will also be available on streaming service NOW TV via the Sky Cinema Pass.