Director: Edward Hall
Starring: Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Emilia Fox, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Judi Dench
Run time: 1h 35min
First performed a remarkable 80 years ago, Blithe Spirit remains one of Noël Coward’s most popular plays. There have been numerous revivals for the West End and Broadway as well as several adaptations for television, radio and film. Director Edward Hall gathers a stellar cast to bring his reimagining of the ghostly comedy to life, with a pinch of artistic licence sexing up the script from writers Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft.
Award winning author Charles (Dan Stevens) is suffering from writer’s block and a hidden yearning for his deceased wife, the confident and assured Elvira (Leslie Mann). Now married to Ruth (Isla Fisher), a much more conservative and demure lady, he seeks inspiration for his next job from recently disgraced Psychic, Madame Arcati (Judi Dench). When a séance hosted by Arcati somehow manages to bring back the spirit of a jealous Elvira, Charles (the only one that can see her) attempts to keep both women happy whilst struggling to deal with the amusing, yet increasingly sinister, consequences.
What follows is 95 minutes of quintessentially English humour and an ensemble cast having a ball as they rocket through the script with style and panache. The characters are magnificently brought to life not just by the actors, but by Costume Designer Charlotte Walter and her wonderfully theatrical creations on display.
Dan Stevens (looking uncannily like Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride) successfully manages to remain likeable despite his roguish behaviour and Isla Fisher showcases her comedic skills superbly, even if her Australian accent slips through every now and then. Leslie Mann brings a mischievous energy to all her scenes and threatens to upstage the others whilst Judi Dench once again proves why she’s a national treasure with her gravitas and class.
There’s a timely message about equality and men taking credit for women’s work in the slightly updated script and Edward Hall even manages to bring Thelma & Louise into proceedings. However, its heart is very much full of the 1937 setting and it’s a delightful place to spend time in.
Blithe Spirit is full to the brim with a quaint elegance and easy charm. It’s a perfect Sunday afternoon film and a smile throughout. There’s life in this ghost story yet.
Blithe Spirit will haunt select UK cinemas and Sky Cinema from January 15th