A new film adaptation of Noel Coward’s famously ‘spirited’ 1941 play Blithe Spirit is coming to a (insert however the hell we’ll be seeing movies in December) near you, starring pretty pretties Isla Fisher, Dan Stevens, and Leslie Mann, and the Middleburg Film Festival offered a drive-in screening of this fluffy farce, this celebration of cynicism, on the fest’s opening night. Screenwriter Piers Ashworth reinvigorates the story with a more female-friendly, feminist bend, and one character who is decidedly more sympathetic, although the story still takes place in the 30s, with all the attendant style and panache.

In the original play by Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit was conceived as a way to temporarily still thoughts of mortality and loss so pervasive during the Second World War. Premiering in London’s West End on July 2nd of 1941, Blithe Spirit came only months after over 32,000 Brits had died in the Blitz. His cynical take on death and the afterlife, featuring heartless characters impossible to root for, was meant to offer a frivolous respite from the destruction and death surrounding them. Coward knew all too well how tenuous life and home could be, having had his London office entirely blown to rubble during the bombing.

Some of the same issues are in evidence in 2020. This Halloween, blood, guts, gore, and the terror of the usual horror fare, just don’t cut it when a pandemic is killing people all over the world. Well-dressed, flamboyant spirits, haunting each other out of spite, is about all many of us can take.

To read the entire review, go to AWFJ.org HERE.