Edward Hall’s newest release is a hilarious treat that’s sure to make lockdown less dreary. Blithe Spirit follows Charles Condomine’s (Dan Stevens) descent into madness after writer’s block and a looming deadline drive him to desperation. Tortured by his inability to write, he decides to stimulate his creative juices by inviting a disgraced spiritualist medium into his home for a private séance with his wife and friends. Whiskey in hand and sniggers hidden behind fingers, the evening seems to be going to plan. That is, until Charles comes face to face with his ex-wife. The biggest problem? She’s dead.
Now Charles must appease his current wife while facing off against the love of his life, whom he lost seven years ago but never truly moved on from. All while saving his career and convincing the world he hasn’t lost his mind. Easy, no?
The chaos that ensues is a delight, leaving the audience gasping for air. More comedy than anything else, Blithe Spirit has an abundance of dry wit, slapstick humour and hilarious surprises to carry its light-hearted tone. That said, there is certainly no lack of drama, with Charles’s disastrous attempts to balance two wives offering more than any script could possibly need.
Perhaps Hall’s greatest success is in pairing this wonderful script with the perfect cast. All play their part admirably, though Isla Fisher and Leslie Mann undoubtedly provide stand out performances, each offering the perfect counterpart to Dan Steven’s leading man. Where Ruth Condomine is soft, pink satin and tinkling laughter, Elvira Condomine is bright red lips and a sardonic tone. The contrast between the two ensures everyone has a character to root for and thank goodness for that, because Steven’s character, while charming (in an old boy sort of way) lacks the charisma of a crowd favourite.
A special mention must, of course, go out to Judi Dench, whose performance as Madame Cecily Arcati is incomparable. As ever, she makes the role so totally hers that it is impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. Even those who begin the film confused regarding her choice of role will finish wishing they could see an entire production based solely around her unexpectedly likeable character.
There have been many comedies released over the last two years, some of which I have enjoyed, while others soon found themselves on the list of films I regret wasting my time on, yet no film has brought me as much enjoyment as Blithe Spirit. Much to my pleasure, I found it to be a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and instead embraces its comedic element while maintaining a simple yet gripping storyline. The result is a well written, wonderfully cast film that genuinely entertains its audience.
So get under your blanket, grab some leftover Christmas chocolate and enjoy, because at this point an evening filled with laughter is the least we deserve.
Blithe Spirit is streaming now on Sky Cinema.