Director – Edward Hall – 2020 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m
Adaptation of Noël Coward’s supernatural comedy in which a remarried man is tormented by the ghost of his late, first wife – on VoD from Friday, January 15th
Noël Coward’s original play has always been something of an audience pleaser with its slightly loopy medium Madame Arcati who materialises the late wife or a remarried man who then finds he’s stuck with the unwelcome ghost and his second wife at the same time. The likeable if lightweight property has been filmed numerous times over the years and you might wonder, does the world really need another version?
Anyway, here it is. Edward Hall has had the good sense to cast Judi Dench as Arcati and she clearly has a lot of fun playing the role, just as the audience will enjoy her playing it. The screenplay takes liberties with Coward’s text, but they’re quite smart liberties. It turns main protagonist Charles Condomine (the appropriately sprightly Dan Stevens) into a screenwriter struggling to write a film for his producer. His late and recently rematerialised first wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) all but wrote the series of novels which made his name as a writer and which still living second wife Ruth (Isla Fisher) believes he himself wrote.
Elvira being somewhat miffed at Charles’ remarrying, she contrives to murder him so she can have him all to herself in the afterlife. But as those who’ve seen the play before will know, it all goes horribly, hilariously wrong.
Hall turns the Condomine household into a lavish, modern, white walled estate, all horizontals and verticals, perfectly suited to the light and airy feel of the proceedings. There’s lots of nicely staged, knockabout slapstick. To talk about the play as a reinvention makes this adaptation sound far more impressive than it is, but it does everything that’s required of it and at ninety-odd minutes will provide a reasonably diverting afternoon’s entertainment even if it’s unlikely to be remembered as anything out of the ordinary.
Blithe Spirit is out on VoD in the UK from Friday, January 15th.