VOD film review: Blithe Spirit
James R | On 15, Jan 2021
Director: Edward Hall
Cast: Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Dan Stevens, Judi Dench
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Don’t you just hate it when your long-deceased wife is brought back from the dead as a ghost and ends up following you through your current marriage? Not in the case of Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward’s classic farce that was famously brought to the screen by David Lean back in 1945. But he would be itching to come back and haunt this new production, which makes even the most timeless theatrical gem feel bored, dull and unfunny.
Dan Stevens plays successful crime writer Charles, who has seen his career hit a brick wall in recent years – ever since, curiously enough, his first wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) passed away. Visiting a spiritualist, Madame Arcati (Judi Dench), to find inspiration, he gets more than that, as Elvira pops back as a spirit to haunt him, disrupt his relationship with new wife Ruth (Isla Fisher) and tinker with his latest script. While the cast are game enough, script-tinkering is the real problem here, with Coward’s sharply carved dialogue replaced by a broader, poorer attempt at an update.
The result leaves the cast having to turn everything up to 11 to get the audience to raise an eyebrow, let alone a smirk, causing the whole show to descend into painfully overdone histrionics. It clocks in at a trim 95 minutes, but feels much longer – a sign that the momentum and playful energy that once roamed the halls of Coward’s supernatural comedy has long since kicked the bucket. “There’s no thing for it,” declares Judi Dench’s medium early on, “I’ll have to go into a trance.” You know how she feels.
Blithe Spirit is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.