The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0546 Tuesday, 21 August 2007
Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Subject: Branagh's _As You Like It_
Hard to 'Like': Branagh's adaptation of Shakespeare comedy just a pretender
By Mark A. Perigard/ Television Review
Boston Herald TV Critic
Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - Updated: 04:18 AM EST
How can someone stage "As You Like It" and botch the most crucial element?
Actor/director Kenneth Branagh adapts Shakespeare's classic comedy about
mistaken identity and misreads the plot device for a footnote.
As anyone who read the play in high school knows, fair Rosalind
disguises herself as a man so she and her cousin Celia can travel freely
through a dangerous forest. There they encounter Rosalind's beloved,
Orlando, and as "the fair youth" Ganymede, Rosalind tests the limits of
Orlando's devotion to her.
As Rosalind pretending to be Ganymede, Bryce Dallas Howard ("The
Village") wears trousers, ties her hair in a ponytail and puts a cap on
It's as if Julia Roberts went out to the park to ride horses one day.
Howard does nothing to change her mannerisms or her voice. She wouldn't
fool a corpse.
Nobody's expecting something akin to Hilary Swank's Oscar-winning turn
in "Boys Don't Cry." But even Gwyneth Paltrow tried to be convincing in
her Oscar-winner, "Shakespeare in Love."
The Bard's satire of gender politics - which culminates in a mock
wedding between Orlando and Ganymede - is robbed of its edge.
(Mind you, your brain gets all twisty when you recall that in
Shakespeare's day, boys played the girls' roles - so Rosalind would have
been played by a boy pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy.)
Branagh places this version in 19th century Japan, for apparently no
other reason other than to make the opening moments seem like a Jackie
Chan film. Masked warriors storm a home and stage a military coup.
So what is to like about "As You Like It"? The supporting cast is
superb. Alfred Molina, dressed like Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp, through
the forest greenery as the court jester Touchstone.
Romola Garai ("Vanity Fair") takes a few pratfalls as faithful Celia. As
Orlando, David Oyelowo ("MI-5") sparks the screen. Unfortunately, his
character seems terminally dumb for falling for Rosalind's charade.
As the melancholy Jaques, Kevin Kline is assigned the play's most
enduring dialogue ("All the world's a stage . . ."), but Branagh
undercuts the moment by filming Kline at a distance and through some
Who knew a comedy about cross-dressing could be such a drag?
"As You Like It" Tuesday at 9 on HBO. Grade: C+
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