Hail to thee, Dan Stevens, once again a man with writer’s block, haunted by ghosts at his desk. In 2017, Charles Dickens, and now as Charles Condomine, the no-good cad at the heart of Noël Coward’s classic comedy. Condomine turns to a medium called Madame Arcati (Judi Dench) to conduct a séance but he gets much more than the lightning strike of inspiration.

A vision in red, Charles’ dead wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) returns and he is torn between her and his new wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher). Edward Hall’s take avoids the ghoulish grey-green make-up and white hair of the titular spirit that can be enjoyed in the 1945 film and the recent West End revivals, but fails to replace that gleeful style of comedy with anything more distinctive. Without reminder of the spirit world, Blithe Spirit becomes more a haphazard love-triangle than a supernatural comedy.

An intriguing addition is Elvira’s role as Condomine’s actual ghost-writer, which, duly explored, could have leant itself more to a scathing feminist angle and been a genuine addition to the “Good For Her” cinematic universe. As the Bradmans, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Emilia Fox are excellent but frustratingly don’t escape the periphery when comedically, the seasoned pair of performers have much more to offer. Alongside the shifting role of Dench’s Arcati, whose vernacular vacillates between spiritual nonsense about chakras and anachronistic Ghostbusters-style classifications, fun choices are left adrift when the film isn’t sure enough to take them further.  

Blithe Spirit is adequate but ultimately as forgettable as Condomine’s on-screen scribbles. Dan Stevens brings his best basket-case performance, but without more courageous, confident writing, the rest of this glittering cast is wasted. Its attractive aesthetic only serves to make what was an originally acerbic 1940s comedy tamer and almost serious, with only glimpses of a more audacious 2 Blithe 2 Spirit.



CAST: Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Judi Dench, Emilia Fox, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Michele Dotrice, Aimee-Ffion Edwards

DIRECTOR: Edward Hall

WRITERS: Nick Moorcroft, Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard (screenplay by); Noël Coward (based on the play by)

SYNOPSIS: A writer seeking inspiration accidentally summons the ghost of his dead wife, romantic and supernatural dilemmas ensure.