Blithe Spirit – Review

Leslie Mann as Elvira Condomine, Judi Dench as Madame Cecily Arcati, Dan Stevens as Charles Condomine and Isla Fisher as Ruth Condomine in Blithe Spirit – Courtesy of IFC Films.

Blithe Spirit follows the story of Charles (Dan Stevens) being haunted by his deceased ex wife (Leslie Mann) after she was summoned in a séance. Right off the bat it’s clear this film’s narrative setup is designed to create chaos and fun; and chaos and fun ensues. What’s worse than being haunted by your ex partner? Having a new partner at the same time. Throughout this film we must watch Charles deal with a deadly love triangle between his current wife and his dead ex one – all the while he tries to complete a movie script before his deadline. 

Blithe Spirit is first and foremost a comedy – so with that in mind it’s important that whatever this film was going to be, it had to be amusing. Well, spoilers alert, Blithe Spirit succeeds. Sure, major laugh-out-loud moments will be few and far between, but Blithe Spirit is just charming enough to squeeze out a hearty chuckle or two, or three. It draws its strengths from situational and slapstick comedy; something that has somewhat waned in popularity during the 2010’s as comedy films have lent more into parody or satire as a primary comedy mechanism in the past decade. In a way it’s refreshing to return to these comedic roots that we see so less of nowadays.

Now with all that said, it’s probably prudent to note that Blithe Spirit isn’t reinventing any new forms of humor, nor does it do anything particularly interesting with the material it’s working with – but it gets enough out of it’s actors to make the scene by scene moments enjoyable, it paces itself smartly so it doesn’t drag, and most importantly it keeps the humor simple. This was a relaxing and low mental effort comedy and that lends greatly to its watchability.

Does Blithe Spirit enthrall on some deeper level? Well, there’s a meager attempt by director Edward Hall to dive into the subject of females being unrecognized as writers in the industry – this came up several times but it never goes any further than surface level – perhaps because director Edward Hall felt that tackling such a subject could sour the mood of the comedy, so he decided to keep the exploration of this topic at a minimum.

Dan Stevens as Charles Condomine and Leslie Mann as Elvira Condomine in Blithe Spirit – Courtesy of IFC Films.

Blithe Spirit contains a bit of style in relation to shot selection and production design which is refreshing to see in a comedy film. There are some interesting shots that blend quite nicely with what is being portrayed on-screen and compliment the tone of the film. There is a nice balance of colour throughout the film that is easy on the eyes and is quite appealing. I can’t imagine this film having a large budget but for the low amount of visual effects that are used, they are convincing and feel naturalistic. Overall, there’s a degree of elegance that this film emanates that makes what could be a visually lackluster experience, a polished and stylistic one – again, this all compounds to make the viewing experience just more pleasing.

Easily one of the highlights for the film, production design. The costuming is impeccable –  it is absorbing, compliments the tone of the film, establishes the time period and is always consistent. We spend a lot of time at a single location and that environment is used to its fullest capacity. There is a level of detail that isn’t common in traditional comedy films which is something I appreciate. The score produced is perfectly fitting for the movie’s time and era. The subtle strums of the string instruments used is a classic in most comedies and it was utilised brilliantly throughout this film.

This is ultimately a perfectly acceptable comedy to watch if you’re feeling a little down in the dumps – in many ways this comedy is warm and inviting, like a high quality christmas movie or nostalgic kids film. Would we go out of our way to rewatch Blithe Spirit? Well, not really… but if the question of quality comedy films of the year came up, Blithe Spirit would undoubtedly get a mention.

6.9/10

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