Directed by Irwin Winkler, starring Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally, Sandra Nelson, Allan Corduner and Peter Polycarpou.

Stylised and polished, 'De-Lovely' is about the life of the professionally successful but personally troubled Cole Porter. Porter was one of the 20th century's most gifted composers and songwriters, but the film ultimately skates across the surface rather than delving into the depths of this complex man.

The movie opens with a dying Cole (Kline, in near-unrecognisable ageing make-up) receiving a visit by a mysterious man - or angel - known as Gabe (Pryce), who shows him a musical based on his life. This framing narrative is used throughout 'De-Lovely', with occasional interjections from Gabe or the old Cole breaking the flow of what otherwise may have been a straightforward biopic.

'De-Lovely' moves from Jazz Age Paris to Venice, on to New York and over to Hollywood, but at the centre of it all is Porter's relationship with his wife, Linda (Judd). An American socialite who becomes his confidante, muse and then his partner in (we are told) a near-sexless marriage of convenience, Linda fosters and encourages Cole's talent - just asking that he keep his homosexual dalliances under wraps. No easy thing, when success comes a-calling and young men take to throwing themselves at him. Episodes from their lives show the stresses placed on their relationship both from Cole's glory years and darker times of blackmail, sickness and misfortune.

Wide-ranging and uneven, this film could easily have sunk under its own weight but for Porter's own gloriously elegant music. There are big song and dance numbers as well as more intimate performances of songs, only marred in a few cases by the choice of singer. Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow and Elvis Costello are dreadful but others - including Alanis Morissette, Natalie Cole and Kevin Kline himself - acquit themselves rather stylishly.

While 'De-Lovely' might not deliver an entirely accurate biography of Cole Porter, and deals with the question of his homosexuality in an infuriatingly coy manner, there's no doubt that you'll walk out of the cinema humming his music. For the movie, two stars. For the songs - three.

Caroline Hennessy