Blithe Spirit is the type of screwball comedy that will offer laughs this deep into the pandemic even if characters aren’t that likeable.
Noël Coward’s play comes to the big screen or small screen depending on how you’re watching. I cannot compare the film to the play because I haven’t seen it. Nor can I compare it to the 1945 film or the 1956 TV movie. To be fair, I had no idea that the play originated back in the 1940s but that doesn’t matter. However, I feel like Edward Hall finds a way to open it up for the film adaption. A lot of the film takes place at their home but it never feels too stagey.
Crime novelist Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens) is married to Ruth Condomine (Isla Fisher). To no surprise, he has writer block while coming up against a deadline to turn in his first screenplay. Ruth’s father just happens to be a Hollywood producer. I’ve been there only without the deadline part of it. Hell, I wrote a short film in 2020 because of struggling to write a feature film. Ruth does her part in helping Charles fulfill his dreams. But Ruth isn’t enough for Charles to move past writer’s block. He ends up turning to a medium, Madame Cecily Arcati (Judi Dench), even though she’s now seen as a fraud. Anyway, she performs a séance in the Condomines’ home. Don’t call her a fraud anymore because she brings back Elvira Condomine’s (Leslie Mann) spirit.
All of the trouble doesn’t really start until Elvira makes her return. Charles is the only person who can see her. In fact, Ruth doesn’t believe him even when Elvira starts playing the piano. Elvira has been dead for about seven years now. Charles and Ruth are on the verge of their fifth wedding anniversary. On the outside, they are the perfect couple. Elvira, however, does not want anything to do with this. In fact, she wants nothing more than to see Charles dead. She almost gets away with it, too!
It’s a period film but still relatable for a 21st century audience. The trio of Mann, Stevens, and Fisher all play narcissistic characters so, again, it’s hard to root for them. This is certainly the toughest part of the film. Basically, the main three characters are antagonists to to speak. It’s not exactly winning material if you know what I mean. If you’re going to spend 90ish minutes with characters, you want to both invest in and root for them. They do not make this part easy. I find myself laughing at the humor of their situation than anything else. Mann, Stevens, and Fisher are all fantastic when it comes to comedy. They have to be quick with their wit for this film.
Technicolor was expensive in the 1930s so the large majority of films were shot in black and white. One of the ways Blithe Spirit succeeds is how well the film pays homage to the decade with both the color palette and costume design. The filmmakers also manage to get the authenticity right in terms of locations. There is not a location on screen that doesn’t stand out.
We’re 11 months into a pandemic. Throw in a winter storm and I’m already fatigued beyond fatigued. Marvel, Star Wars, Steven Spielberg movies, and comedies are the films getting me through this pandemic. They’re my comfort food. Honestly, I had an entertaining time watching this trio of Condomines argue on screen. At the end of the day, I laughed so the film did it’s job.
DIRECTOR: Edward Hall
SCREENWRITERS: Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard, Nick Moorcroft
CAST: Leslie Mann, Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, and Judi Dench