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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: August ::
Branagh's _As You Like It_
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0551  Wednesday, 22 August 2007

[1] 	From: 		Lynn Brenner <
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	Date: 		Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 15:39:39 EDT
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0546 Branagh's _As You Like It_

[2] 	From: 		Nancy Charlton <
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	Date: 		Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 15:19:02 -0700
	Subj: 		Re: SHK 18.0546 Branagh's _As You Like It_


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Lynn Brenner <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 15:39:39 EDT
Subject: 18.0546 Branagh's _As You Like It_
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0546 Branagh's _As You Like It_

Alas, the Boston Herald is not alone. See the NYT review, pasted below.

(Rosalind excessively talkative??? Has Branagh misplaced a few of his 
marbles?)

Lynn Brenner

August 21, 2007
Television Review | 'As You Like It'
Enough Already, Rosalind, Let the Kooks Talk
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN

Rosalind, the droll heroine of "As You Like It," doesn't thrill Kenneth 
Branagh.Mr. Branagh maintains that Rosalind - the character who Harold 
Bloomhas argued is the first modern lover in all of literature - talks 
too much.

"She does go on a bit," Mr. Branagh said, blandly explaining his 
resizing of the part to a reporter for The Los Angeles Times.

Or maybe it's Bryce Dallas Howard, the daughter of the American 
mega-director Ron Howard, whom Mr. Branagh wants to muzzle. Ms. Howard 
plays Rosalind in Mr. Branagh's "As You Like It," which comes to HBO 
tonight. She's what passes for an American starlet in a cast pervaded by 
thespians, including Janet McTeer and Kevin Kline, and Mr. Branagh's 
hoary favorites Brian Blessed and Richard Briers.

As the poised and decorous child of Hollywood, the new Gwyneth Paltrow, 
Ms.  Howard has been chosen to redeem all those emaciated 
club-kidstarlets with her capacity to learn lines and accents. Having 
played Rosalind at the Public Theater in New York, she should really be 
gunning it here, staring down actors like the dashing Nigerian David 
Oyelowo and the irresistible British comic actress Romola Garai.

Who knows how she might have fared? Here she plays an abbreviation. Mr. 
Branagh has teased out every manly rivalry and preserved every 
hey-nonny-nonny of the kooks in the Forest of Arden, but slashed 
passages of the repartee that defines Rosalind. Celia (Ms. Garai), a 
bright blonde who made the BBC mini-series " Daniel Deronda" a triumph, 
doesn't merely steal the first scenes they share. They've been handed to 
her, as to a favored daughter.

What's more, it initially seems that Mr. Branagh, who doesn't appear in 
this straight-to-cable film, won't even give us a good look at Ms. 
Howard. She snuffles and snivels in her opening scenes, muffling her 
speech. And in her first exchange with Orlando (Mr. Oyelowo), she speaks 
from behind a fan, as if Mr.  Branagh wanted to leave open the 
possibility of later dubbing.

Mr. Branagh has set his "As You Like It" in 19th-century Japan, among 
British and other profiteers who have shown up to take advantage of its 
open ports (or so a prefatory card explains). The use of tatami mats and 
rice-paper screens allows for surprising, minimalist shapes, as in the 
scene when Celia and Rosalind lie together discussing their woes. The 
modernist decor sets off their Victorian costumes, and it's a lovely 
collision.

Before the cross-dressing begins and the farce gains speed in the Forest 
of Arden (played by the moderately Asian-looking Wakehurst Place in West 
Sussex, England), the movie looks murky. This was a flaw of Mr. 
Branagh's winning "Henry V," and he seems married to his ochre-maroon 
palette, even in this love story.  But if he plans on making other 
television films, someone should tell him that people often watch TV 
during the day, in scattershot light. I watched with drawn curtains and 
still was hardly able to make out faces in several scenes.

With Rosalind sporadically benched, the tension between Orlando and his 
murderous brother, Oliver (Adrian Lester, who has played Rosalind in an 
all-male production), has been amplified. Mr. Lester brings spirit and 
intelligence to what is typically a caricature. His beleaguered contempt 
for his brother - audible in the cry "He's gentle!" - is gorgeous.

Mr. Kline delivers Jaques's beloved "All the world's a stage" soliloquy 
to images of nature and the sound of chirping birds. (A lion later 
intrudes in a scene between Orlando and Oliver; nature is fully 
incorporated into stagecraft here.) This is odd, and it misuses Mr. 
Kline, who seems unable ever to hit a false note. As a thoroughgoing 
depressive here, he brings some clairvoyance to melancholy, which suits 
him.

Mr. Kline has, without fanfare, become a kind of elder statesman of 
American acting, with no taint on him. His face is so kindly and his 
voice so unforced that viewers can't help wanting the satisfaction of 
seeing him cover the big hits; it's not fair to deny us his face during 
this speech. In contrast, Alfred Molina, as the gonzo Touchstone, 
skillfully monopolizes every inch of the screen when he's clowning.

Fortunately, Mr. Branagh hasn't forgotten Rosalind altogether, and 
around the midpoint of the film he has no choice but to let his leading 
lady lead. Ms.  Howard makes a passable Victorian young man. And 
Rosalind's in-drag seduction of Orlando has a kind of "Brokeback 
Mountain" manliness. The firm handshake is hot.

Finally, "As You Like It" mellows and turns to soft focus. Rosalind 
pulls off her bossy-girl antics in the woods. The worry over the dukes 
and the fussy, bloody politics recedes, and - though Mr. Branagh still 
refuses to turn up the lights much - the many lovers join. This is "As 
You Like It" as we like it.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Nancy Charlton <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 15:19:02 -0700
Subject: 18.0546 Branagh's _As You Like It_
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0546 Branagh's _As You Like It_

 >From BostonHerald.com
 >
 >http://theedge.bostonherald.com/tvNews/view.bg?articleid=1018127

Writing in haste, to pick on a minor point?

 >As the melancholy Jaques, Kevin Kline is assigned the play's
 >most enduring dialogue ("All the world's a stage . . ."),

Dialogue? Last time I looked, it was a set-piece soliloquy, an aria if 
you will.

 >Who knew a comedy about cross-dressing could be such a drag?

Gro-o-o-an. The only AYLI I've ever seen that I really liked was the 
tape I checked out of the library, a CBC production done 10 or 12 years 
ago in Canada. Is it a sign of the witlessness of these latter days that 
no one seems to be able to play this play decently? Or am I a finicky 
fussbudget hopelessly out of the loop?

Nancy Charlton

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