Review Round Up: Blithe Spirit

Edward Hall directs this latest film based on Noel Coward’s play – but how did critics react to it?

The Guardian: * “Despite the heavyweight cast, the film’s production values are those of a kids’ TV show that might go out on a weekday afternoon.”

The Financial Times: * “Hall recycles the set-up as pure missing trousers farce filled with smirky running jokes forced to keep going until they drop sobbing to their knees.”

Variety: “Though they all look catalog-splendid in Charlotte Walter’s box-fresh period duds, the stars seem entirely adrift under Hall’s airless, sitcom-style direction.”

Empire: ** “It’s a monstrous ménage à trois, and the 1930s decor and chic costumes all add to the fun (especially when Elvira starts chucking the beautiful Clarice Cliff crockery around), but it’s unclear why the period setting was retained when so much of the original has been jettisoned in favour of plot complications and a detour to Hollywood.

Screen Daily: “The presence in the cast of Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens might be a selling point (director Edward Hall, making his feature directing debut here, is also a Downton alumnus), likewise the assertively Art Deco production design. However the clumsiness of execution in other aspects may hamper the film’s prospects.”

The Telegraph: * “The linguistic wit and thrust of Noel Coward’s play have been replaced by posh-speak pastiche and ham-fisted narrative gambits.” “There is a lot that is immediately likeable about Blithe Spirit. For starters, there’s the aesthetics of the 1930s setting: the cars, costumes, and the Art Deco house. Then there’s the cast featuring Dan Stevens with his particular brand of face acting that makes him almost unrecognisable from film to film, and certified national treasure Dame Judi Dench. Finally, there is the plot, an adaptation from a Noel Coward play beloved for its comedy. Unfortunately, instead we get a film which starts well, but is less than the sum of its parts.” “There’s no denying that director Edward Hall is having the time of his life here, emerging from a lengthy theatre career and some TV work with his first theatrical feature – albeit one arriving digitally via Sky Cinema after its multiplex release was delayed last year. He keeps the tone light and the action moving, refusing to simply allow the movie to sink into the inherent limitations of its stage-bound predecessor. The vivid colours and stark lighting of Ed Wilde’s lensing lends the movie a fantastical feel which perfectly suits the spooks and silliness of the plot.”

iNews: *** “. This is a loud, hysterical affair, not a droll one. Does it matter though? If you take this on its own terms, it’s 90 minutes of nonsensical, well-dressed fun – and what’s wrong with that?”

Culture Whisper: *** “It escapes the stuffiness of filmed theatre to create an enjoyably silly, farcical, well-to-do British comedy; a colourful romp that exorcises 90 minutes into no time at all.” “If Stevens throws himself into the shamelessly old-fashioned role of harassed husband with admirable aplomb, Mann near matches him with her mischievous twinkle and knack for the screwball style, and when Fisher gets to let her hair down she’s a riot too. The period stylings can be delightful but the material does feel dated and rather like Sunday afternoon entertainment.”

Blithe Spirit is out now on Sky Cinema.

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