What would happen if someone you loved died and after you moved on, they came back to haunt you?
That’s the basis of comedy film Blithe Spirit.
Based on a novel by Noel Coward, and directed by Edward Hall, the film revolves around novelist Charles Condimine who is struggling to adapt his novel to the big screen. His wife Ruth is dismayed by Charles’ lack of drive, especially as her father is the producer of said future film. After seeing medium Madame Acarti perform live, Charles is suddenly inspired and invites the psychic to his home for a séance. Unfortunately, it goes wrong when Charles’ first ex-wife Elvira is brought back in a ghostly manner and turns everything upside down.
With the twinkly-eyed Dan Stevens as Charles, Isla Fisher as Ruth, and Leslie Mann as Elvira, you’d expect this movie to be a rip-roaring, comedic success. Sadly, the actors cannot conjure up any chemistry. They are all accomplished, yes, but sadly they don’t seem to inject any life into the piece. It’s not that it feels forced, it just feels very flat.
Even Stevens, who is charming in practically everything, tries but his character is a measly, weasel-y man who gets worse along the way. It’s fine having leading characters like this but then you have to suffer through this journey when you find him irredeemable from the very start. Charles beings to annoy and grate from his first arrival, much to the dismay of his suffering wife Ruth and his ill utilized staff (especially considering on how the play ends.)
However, for a comedy film, this new adaptation has very few laughs, if any at all. Though it is bright and colourful, with a sleek production design (albeit some garish cinematography,) Blithe Spirit is not bright with wit or comedy, barely provoking a smile for most of the movie. It has a somewhat flat and dead tone which, ironically, is terrible for this film.
The writing feels stiff and wooden. There are random elements added including an unnecessary sex plot and creating this “truth” about Charles writing.
However, the most irritating subplot added to this movie is Madame Acarti. Instead of the random quirky village psychic, she is this great show person. Played by Judi Dench, Arcarti’s shuffling across the screen to get some answers about Elvira’s distract from the already strained action on the screen. There’s also this element of her deceased husband which drags. Every time the camera pans towards the old photo of him, it further adds this plodding pace.
There have been many adaptations of Blithe Spirit but, sadly, this one is a spirit-less one.
Blithe Spirit is available on Sky Cinema now!