Movie Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)
Synopsis: Charles Condomine has a secret. His successful novels were actually written by his now-deceased wife, Elvira. Seven years after her death, he is now struggling to adapt one of his (her) books into a screenplay, something that is putting his current marriage to Ruth on the rocks, especially since the stress has left him impotent. Hoping to gain inspiration for a new character, he invites a recently-disgraced medium to conduct a séance in his home and she accidentally brings back his late wife's ghost. At first, this seems like a fortunate event, both because she helps him with his screenplay and eventually is able to have sex with him. However, with Elvira wanting to make the arrangement more permanent, he eventually finds his life in danger.
Review: I recently had an opportunity to watch the 1945 version of this movie and, after enjoying it more than expected, I decided I should give this version a try as well. Our library happened to have a copy of it and my wife and I watched it last night.
At first, I wasn't really sure what to expect because I didn't know if it would be a word-for-word rehash of the 1945 film or if the filmmakers would add some new elements to the script. As it turns out, it was the latter and, while I might have enjoyed the Rex Harrison version a little more, there was a lot to like about this movie too.
One thing I found I loved about this film was the way it added a bit more depth to the individual characters. Elvira (Mann) being the reason for Charles' success, for example, was a great twist and watching Madame Arcati's (Dench) public failure made her character seem more human and also made her surprise over the success of her séance much more believable.
At first, I wasn't sure I'd like the love triangle angle, especially the part about Elvira being able to take enough of a physical form to be intimate with him. It did, however, make things a bit more interesting, especially when Charles still picked Ruth (Fisher) over her but also eventually had to face the consequences of his supernatural affair.
I am also going to say I liked the ending to this film a lot more than expected, especially the surprise twist involving Elvira's writing skills. It was unexpected and seemed well-deserved considering Charles really wasn't a likable guy overall.
As far as negatives go, I did feel the movie could have used a bit more of an explanation about why Elvira was brought back from the dead since it didn't appear Charles wanted that to happen and, unlike the 1945 film, it couldn't be explained another way. Basically, there was a mystery but no real attempt to solve it.
Also, while I didn't hate Dench's performance, I did feel Margaret Rutherford's version of Madame Arcati was more memorable, at least when it came to the more comedic parts of the movie. Dench did a good job, I just don't know if it was necessarily the right part for her.
Final Opinion: I admittedly had a few doubts about this film but it did end up being more enjoyable than expected. Probably the only way it could have been considerably better is if it was turned into a horror film.
My Grade: A-