There comes a time when all you want from a film is a good time.
You don’t want to have to think, to consider morals or ethics, or even to struggle with the resulting emotions of watching a film that stirred something sad, or melancholy, or complicated in you.
In those moments, what you want is a movie that knows how to leave you feeling a little bit buoyant. It’s light, charming and endlessly amusing.
The latest film that fulfils that criteria perfectly is Blithe Spirit. Adapted from the 1941 Noel Coward play of the same name, the film is nothing but a genuine pleasure to watch. Is it going to be nominated for an Oscar anytime soon? Probably not. Is it chaotic? Absolutely? Is it fun, flirty and very funny? You know it.
Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens) is a writer who’s struggling to write the screen adaptation of his play. He’s the kind of guy who scolds the maid because his toast is too cold and bemoans the general state of his life despite the fact he lives incredibly comfortably in a mansion funded by his wife’s loaded film executive father. His wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher) is very hot and even more patient with him, which kind of doesn’t do much to endear you to Charles.
But as I said, he’s ill with writer’s block. Then an idea occurs to him: employ famous medium Madame Arcati (Dame Judi Dench) to perform a seance at their home to help get the mental juices flowing. Unfortunately for Charles, the supernatural had other plans for him. Unbeknownst to Madame Arcati, her seance had been a little *too* successful and she had actually summoned Charle’s dead ex-wife, Elvira (Leslie Mann). The problem? Charles is the only person who can see her. And as a tempestuous woman who is determined that only she should have Charles’ heart, that creates problems with Ruth.
What ensues is Charles being caught between two wives – one alive, one dead – who are both vying for his love and attention. It doesn’t help that Elvira was a very important part of his creative process while she was alive, meaning he relies on her to finish his manuscript.
This doesn’t take itself seriously. Every line is delivered to make you laugh, slapstick is used often and the acting is incredibly camp. But that’s what makes it so good: it’s almost been designed for pure hedonistic pleasure. Physical comedy is amped up and used to very comical results here. There’s more than one scene in which Charles is reacting to something Elvira is doing – teasing him, or threatening to kill him, for instance – but because no one else can see him, he’s left looking like he is genuinely going insane. At a time when we still haven’t entirely got past the “crazy woman” trope, it’s highly satisfying watching a film where the main male character is presented as not just a little unhinged, but very unhinged.
Not only that, but the film is the perfect length. At 139 minutes, it’s not overly long and to top it all off: the set design is an absolute 1940s dream. The house where most of the action takes place will have you pausing to take pictures for interior inspiration with colour-blocked rooms, decadent design and manicured lawns.
Judi Dench as Madame Arcati is loveable in only a way Dench can be. The moments where she is longing for her lost soldier beau are incredibly amusing and make her a character that you can’t help but love like an old friend. And Isla Fisher shines as Ruth, bringing her trademark charm to the character, imbuing her with a warmth that leaves you wanting to watch a whole 139 minutes more just of her.
Blithe Spirit is the kind of movie you need when all you want to do is sit back, relax and enjoy yourself. It’s the perfect romp for right now.
Blithe Spirit is streaming on Amazon Prime now.