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What can a writer do when he's struggling to find his words for a screenplay? Summon the spirit of his dead wife to help him out, of course! Unfortunately, his current wife may have some objections, with the whole situation resulting in a deadly love triangle.
That's the premise behind Blithe Spirit, a new comedy based on Noël Coward's classic play of the same name. The play first opened in 1941 and was adapted into a movie in 1945, so it was probably time for a remake, which drops in Australia this weekend. Here's how you can tune in.
Blithe Spirit was released in Australia on Friday, 2 April.
In Australia, Blithe Spirit will be streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The service is free with an Amazon Prime subscription. Besides access to the video platform, a Prime subscription comes with perks like free and expedited shipping, access to exclusive deals, free books and free access to Amazon Music.
New Amazon Prime users can enjoy a 30-day trial. After that, a subscription will set you back only $6.99/month. Current highlights on Prime Video include the Oscar-nominated movie Sound of Metal, superhero series Invincible, AFL docuseries Making Their Mark and Coming 2 America.
Set in the '30s, Blithe Spirit centres on crime novelist Charles (Dan Stevens), who suffers from writer's block, to the annoyance of his new wife Ruth (Isla Fisher). To get inspiration for his script, Charles invites mystic Madame Arcati (Judi Dench) to perform a séance in his home. However, the séance has unexpected consequences, and his first wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) comes back from the dead in ghost form.
Turns out, Elvira was responsible for much of Charles's success as a writer, so she agrees to help him out with the script. As the two spend more time together, Charles finds himself caught in a dangerous love triangle – especially when Elvira's spirit turns malevolent and plans to drive a wedge between the writer and his current wife.
I admit to not being familiar with the source material prior to watching this new movie, but I've read about it in advance to prepare. Some of the words employed to praise Noël Coward's play and the 1945 movie include "hilarious," "witty" and "eccentric." Unfortunately, those are not adjectives I would use to describe this more recent production.
Blithe Spirit is… fine. The cast is talented. The costumes and sets are gorgeous. I loved the film's color palette and the music is top-notch. Yet, for a screwball comedy, it lacks that special spark that makes viewers laugh out loud at absurd shenanigans. As a result, the movie commits the deadly sin of being boring. Its runtime is only a little over 90 minutes but Blithe Spirit feels longer, which is never a good thing.
It's not all bad. I chuckled profusely when Elvira first entered the scene. Since Charles is the only one who can see her, the ghost humour initially works and Leslie Mann seems to have a lot of fun in the role.
Once the introductions are out of the way though, the movie loses momentum. The ghost humour becomes repetitive and, as charming as Dan Stevens is, you're left wondering why these two women would bother fighting over such an arrogant and self-pitying man.
The writers have updated the original story with commentary on how men often took credit for women's work throughout history. I appreciate a modern twist on a classic story, but here it feels awkward and unnecessary. I would have much more enjoyed seeing more interaction between the two women in Charles's life, more absurd scenes of Elvira tormenting Charles, more silliness in general.
If you're in the mood for a period comedy that's nice to look at, you might enjoy this more than I did. But once you're done, may I suggest also checking out Prime Video's original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? That one will actually make your laugh out loud.
You can keep up with the latest shows and films coming to streaming each month on our hub page. Looking for more dramedies set in the past? Here are the best period piece shows you can stream in Australia.
Image source: Amazon
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