Tag Archives: Shakespearean adaptation

To like or not to like… Kenneth Branagh

3 Jul

Daniel J. Rowe

When sitting down to watch any of Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptations of the bard, you cannot avoid the first question: do I like this guy?

It’s like with Woody Allen. It’s very hard to separate the person from the film, and, even if objectively it’s a good movie, you have to come to terms with the creator.

Branagh’s done a half-dozen adaptations thus far with Love’s Labour’s Lost being the last of them in 2000. Then he kind of stopped doing them. Don’t know why. Don’t think he needed to stop, as he has a passion for the bard, but he stopped nonetheless.

Let’s look at that last film version, and see what we think of one of the Bard Brawl’s least favourite plays. The brawlers read through this one, and I think it’s fair to say no one really liked it. Reading and watching, however, are two different things, and there are many instances where one is superior to the other.

This LLL (that’s what we’re calling it because it looks cool and is 50-50-50 if we’re doing Roman numerals) is a musical and Technicolor style of the 50s or 60s complete with dancing set against the backdrop of the early days of the Second World War. If you don’t like musicals, you will not like this version. If you don’t like musicals, you may be missing something in life by the way. Just saying. Sing people! Sing on.

Here’s a taste.

Huh.

Who would’ve thought the bard could be so sexy? (The answer to that, by the way, is: the brawlers did. We get it.)

Watching it, I can’t get the feeling like a certain director may have been, ur, inspired? by this film when he made a certain other film. (CLICK THE LINKS).

Back to LLL.

The play involves three men who have cast off all worldly pursuits to lock themselves in a library for a year or something and dedicate it to learning. Girls show up, and dang if their sexiness doesn’t throw them all off their game.

Spoiler alert: you already guessed the ending.

Branagh’s version actually works pretty well. It shows how a play can come off as very boring an uninteresting when read, but then comes to life when seen on stage or screen. It was clever of Branagh to go the route he did and in so doing, he introduced the play to a new audience. I think. I can’t remember anyone seeing it when it came out.

Branagh’s immediate predecessor to LLL was Hamlet that he left untouched and filmed every single line. He got a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination that year, which is weird. LLL, however, he ripped up and put back together, and it works well. If I were teaching this play to torture my students or something, I’d show the film to reward the students for ploughing through the five acts.

Another fun thing about the movie is how much it proves stardom’s fleeting nature.

The film stars a whose who of who used to be hot headlined by none other than Alicia Silverstone. She’s a vegan now aparently. Oh, crushes of the mid-90s. Sigh. “As if” indeed.As IF

Also starring: the guy from Scream, the guy from like four movies whose names I forget, the girl from that movie with Robert De Niro that proved to me that I shouldn’t make a special effort to watch his movies anymore, and Emily Mortimer. I like her.

In the end, LLL works. It’s funny, it’s charming, and it’s got all the box check items that are needed to make a decent Shakespearean comedy work.

Branagh is best when he does comedy. His Much Ado About Nothing is also very good, and his bubbly lightness gives an energy that the cast picks up on, and runs with.

When’s the next adaptation Kenneth? Have you forgotten your first love?

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Let’s Keep Killing Shakespeare!

12 Nov

Eric Jean

Hey Brawlers! It’s finally “next time!”

No, that doesn’t mean a new recording of Titus Andronicus – though we’re hoping to finally get some Brawlers together to  get act V out Soon™.

I mean that it’s finally time to find to talk about IDW Publishing‘s comic series Kill Shakespeare again! You know the awesome graphic novel / comic book series created and written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col.

As Daniel pointed out, we’re reading the hella slick “Backstage Edition,” a hardcover edition of all twelve issues of Kill Shakespeare. If you can swing it, I highly recommend picking it up here. May as well pick up the other volumes while you’re at it. And while you’re shopping, why not load up on some Kill Shakespeare t-shirts.

On an unrelated note, Christmas is coming up in a few weeks…


Issue Five: O Coward Conscience

Courtesy – IDW PublishingSoft! I did but dream.

“O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”

– Richard the Third, V.iii

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”

– Hamlet, III.i

Hamlet’s still confused about what’s going on in issue 5. He’s still convinced that Richard III is a good guy and that Juliet, Othello and the rebels are disruptive elements of the benign king’s just rule. Also, Iago just saved Hamlet’s life so he’s still pretty convinced that Iago’s on his side. Juliet and Othello aren’t buying any of it though. And Othello’s pretty mad, bro.

It’s hard to take Hamlet and Falstaff seriously of course as they’re still walking around in dresses after their getaway in the last issue but what’s Shakespeare without cross-dressing?

Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth and Richard are negotiating. He wants the use of her Black Guard troops but she’s not budging: she’s planning to keep them stationed in her lands. She’s smokin’ hot but Radcliff’s right – she’s trouble for sure.

Hamlet tries to run off in the middle of the night with Iago but Juliet spots him and tells him he’s got to go on alone if he wants to leave. So off he goes and wanders into a walking nightmare. Hamlet sees his father’s image go all zombie undead, pulling at his skin and growing snakes out of his flesh.

That drives him a little nuts but he comes to his senses as he wanders right unto a scene of Don John and Richard’s conies beating up some townsfolk to find out where Hamlet’s hiding. Don John even cuts out Shallow’s tongue and, like a wuss, Hamlet hides in the bushes until they pass.

When Juliet and company arrive in Shrewsbury, they are told not to stick around seeing as the fear of Richard’s men might make someone rat them out. Seems like some good advice.

Finally, Hamlet eventually falls and knocks himself out in the woods trying to run away from Don John and his troops. He’s found by Lysander, Demetrius and Adriana who are on their way to Shrewsbury. Along the way, they drop some truth about their beneficent King Richard.

Characters introduced: Lysander, Demetrius, Adriana


Issue Six: Lend Me Your Ears

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.”

– Julius Caesar, III.ii

Turns out that crazy walking nightmare wasn’t just some bad food but was some sort of spell cast by Lady Macbeth and the weird sisters. (You know, the ones who tell Macbeth he’s be king one day but that Banquo’s kids will take over from him.) In this version, it seems like Lady M’s tapping into their juju to mess with Hamlet (and Skype with Iago, eventually).

In Shrewsbury, Iago’s messing with Othello’s mind by playing nice but “accidentally” saying stuff to set him off. And Juliet and Falstaff find Hamlet sleeping in some stables and guilt him into working the fields to pay for his free lunch.

While they work, Adriana drops some hints to Hamlet who’s totally clueless (Hey dude! Wake up! She wants to “care for thy coat!,” know what I’m saying?) But Hamlet’s too busy being emo Hamlet on account of his being a wuss earlier and not fighting Don John to save the peasant’s tongue.

Elsewhere, King Richard sleeps with Lady Macbeth.

Juliet makes a rousing speech to convince the people of Shrewsbury to join the rebellion against Richard. Rolls a natural 20 on her Diplomacy check. Everyone’s all in!

Ooops! Guess that was a little loud. Seems like Don John and co. hear that, too and now they’ve got the place surrounded and have started beating up on folks!

This time, Hamlet’s ready to throw down though and he clubs a guard in the head. A rumble breaks out and Juliet brains Don John. Even Iago gets in on the action and after they win the fight, beer and food for all.

Oh, and it turns out that Iago’s been serving Lady Macbeth this whole time because he, too, has been hypnotised by her gratuitously giant comic book boobs. (I mean just like Richard, not me. I don’t get hypnotised by cartoon boobs.)

Characters added: no one, but Don John is dead, which is a nice bonus!


Issue Seven: The Play’s The Thing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“[…]I’ll have grounds
More relative than this: the play ‘s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

– Hamlet, II.ii

So Iago’s been using his own magic to Skype with Lady Macbeth who is totally willing to keep using the promise of her body to get stupid men to do stupid things. This isn’t like real life at all, guys.

It’s Twelfth Night in Shrewsbury (well, everywhere else in England too, I would imagine) and Juliet and company are convinced to stick around for a play staged by Feste and Sir Toby Belch. Or just plain Belch here.

Hamlet finally gets a clue and dances with Adriana but the dance is interrupted by the start of the play. Feste’s asking for an audience member to join them on stage.

Feste: “No, not you. No… Ah, Hamlet. Shadow King. You’ll do. Get your ass up here! Here’s a costume.”

Hamlet” What the hell am I supposed to do?”

Feste: “Oh, it’s just an old play called the Murder of King Hamlet. Errr, I mean,Gonzago. The murder of Gonzago. You get to be the murderer. Fun, right?”

Hamelt: “GAHHHHHHHH!” (Exit stage right, running and screaming)

Feste: “Was it something I said?”

Of course, the Murder of Gonzago mirrors the Mousetrap play in Hamlet. This one retells the story of the murder of Hamlet’s father by his brother Claudius. But the names are different so how did Hamlet figure it out? Must be because he’s always making everything about him.

So where does he end up when he runs off? In a crazy, trippy house of mirrors of course. Could there by some symbolism going on? Anyhow, Juliet’s worried about him so she runs off after him and discovers him going all emo again about his dad. So she confides in him about how her lover Romeo (I’ve heard that name before…) killed himself because he thought she was dead but she was just knocked out by some special totally creepy knock-out juice that made her sleep for 2 days.

Hey wait! I thought Juliet died in R&J? Yup. But she gets saved in this version just before she stabs herself and ends up leading the rebellion.

Then cue full-page image of Juliet and Hamlet on either sides of a wall, all Pyramus and Thisby style, talking through a wall and commiserating.

Characters added: Feste, Sir Toby Belch


Issue Eight: Journeys End in Lovers Meeting

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.”

– Twelfth Night, II.iii

Hamlet and the others run into Morton. (Not to be confused with this Morton.) He was discovered spying for the rebellion and just barely managed to escape. Falstaff’s had enough of Hamlet’s waffling and declares that it’s time to find Shakespeare and get all this shit fixed.

In the mean time, Iago and Othello are training the resistance militia. Iago is giving some advice on how to beat stronger opponents like Othello. Seems that some of the advice is doing a number on Othello who gets his butt whipped and then walks off. Iago’s doublespeak is starting to twist and turn him and Othello starts his own #guiltfest.

Didn’t he shaft Iago when he passed him over for a promotion? Maybe murdering his wife Desdemona was all his fault and not Iago’s? And maybe Othello’s just a cool blooded killer anyhow?

Hamlet’s standing on his balcony musing about this whole Shadow King stuff when Juliet calls down from below and then climbs up to him. Some more clever R&J reversal. And finally they make out! The next morning, Falstaff, Iago and Hamlet set out towards… somewhere, to find Shakespeare.

Remember how Lady Macbeth was holding the Black Guard in reserve? Yeah, well Richard kinda went behind her back and invited them and their leader Philip the Bastard to join him in fighting the rebels. Pwnd!

Iago and Falstaff are poking fun at Hamlet about this whole Juliet thing when they are accosted along the road by a bunch of well-armed and armoured paladins or holy warriors. They’re not really buying this Shadow King stuff so their leader steps forward and asks Hamlet to prove it.

Who’s their leader? Romeo Montague, much less dead that previously reported.

Oh snap!

Characters added: Philip the Bastard, Orsino, Romeo

 

What happens next? Well, I know but you should probably pick up the graphic novel to find out for yourself. But if you’re willing to wait, we’ll eventually tell you when we cover issues 9 through 12.

Enjoy, Brawlers!


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Biker Cymbeline a Real Drag

6 Nov

Daniel J. Rowe

Want to watch an excellent play full of life, energy, violence, intrigue, decapitation and romance and make it boring? No? Neither did I.

That’s why Cymbeline, the biker/cop adaptation of the Shakespeare play of same name that could have been oh-so-cool, was so disappointing.

How did this happen?

The idea for the film had everything you want in a Shakespearean adaptation: good play, good idea, good actors and nice set pieces, and yet, it failed in almost every respect.

A brief synopsis.

Directed byMichael Almereyda and starring Ed Harris (Cymbeline), Ethan Hawke (Iachimo), Milla Jovovich (the Queen), Penn Badgley (Posthumus) and Dakota Johnson (Imogen), the film centres on Cymbeline’s motorcycle club’s fight to get out from under the colonial weight of Rome (the cops).

Without getting into specific plot points, let’s just say there are fights, prodigal sons, almost rapes, poisoning, faked deaths, hide-and-go-seek games, and a chopped off head.

How did this film fail?

First, the delivery of lines.

Anyone not entirely sure what the term “vocal fry” means will have a definitive answer after watching this film. The cast, almost without exception, mumble, grumble and sometimes whisper their way through lines I guess in an attempt to make sure everyone knows they’re a tough sort used to rumbling through life. You know, like motorbikes. Sort of.

Vocal Fry:

In speech, a low, scratchy sound that occupies the vocal range below modal voice (the most commonly used vocal register in speech and singing). Also known as vocal fry register, creaky voice, pulse register, laryngealization, and glottal fry. (See Examples and Observations, below.)

David Crystal notes that American actor Vincent Price “produced excellent creaky voice in his especially menacing moments” (A Dictionary of Language, 2001).

I kind of hoped there would be a bit more energy to the characters. It’s not like there is not energy in the lines!

The film’s stars never seem to have any passion while speaking, and there is a good chance a few snoozes could be had while getting through the film.

All of the actors seem good fits for the roles. I mean Dan Humphrey on Gossip Girl is practically Posthumus, and wouldn’t you know it, Penn Badgley plays him. Just cut and past, and swap some dialogue. I won’t lie, when Dan and Serena van der Woodson broke up I stopped watching. Their love was just so real and perfect. Dangit TV! Why do you ruin everything. Then again, they might have got back together in the end. Maybe I should finish watching the series.

Where was I? Oh right. Shakespeare.

Imogen as well is lacking, but maybe I was spoiled by Lily Rabe’s stellar performance in the park this year. Johnson, however, is very drab.

And then there’s Iachimo, a very creepy and crazy character. I was expecting a lot out of Hawke given the quality of his performance in Hamlet. He was dull. I was sad.

Anton Yelchin as Cloten is perhaps the biggest disappointment. Cloten is one of Shakespeare’s most underrated characters. He can be buffoonishly funny, terrifyingly dangerous, or menacing depending on how you play him, and Yelchin is none of these.

The Queen is played by this woman, and has to be called out as a miss. She is on screen very little and given so few lines that it’s unclear what she did, why it mattered, and how her plot was foiled.

John Leguizamo‘s in it too, and adds another ‘guy who was cool in other Shakespeare play, but dull in this one’ credits to the film.

Argh. I know all of these actors are better than this, and I DEFINITELY know the play is better than this.

Second, direction.

This, I don’t understand. Almereyda did a kickass version of Hamlet in 2000, and the hope was that he’d be able to bring the same energy and style to one of Shakespeare’s weirdest and most interesting plays. He had the actors for it, but the film just didn’t wind up picking up any steam. It lacked energy and style, which is baffling as the concept had both.

Even the scenes of violence, confrontation and passion play out very low key. By the end, there is little impact when prodigal sons return, heads are lopped off or doting and devoted husbands prove their infidelity.

You want to see this play, and you want to see it done right, and Almereyda fails. This makes me sad.

Other things.

The constant scene and locale changes don’t help those trying to piece together what is actually a very complicated plot. It’s hard to connect with any of the characters when they get very short scenes, mumble their lines, and have no emotion be it humourous or dramatic.

The bikers aren’t that badass, and the cops don’t have the intimidating power due to Rome. The film is a miss, and, for someone who anticipated its release so much, discouraging.

It was original released as Anarchy, Ride or Die, which is a pretty dumb title and doesn’t really make any sense when you think about it. The story is more about controlling and asserting a state’s existence within an empire.

Please make another version of this play. It deserves it.


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Let’s read a comic and kill us some Shakespeare

18 Jul

Daniel J. Rowe

Sometimes, the title just makes you want to grab the book. I feel like there are few titles less tempting than IDW Publishing‘s comic series Kill Shakespeare.

I mean, dang, it’s called Kill Shakespeare!

Even the haters got to like that one.

I know for a fact, the true brawlers will like the series created and written by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col. We’ll wait for Eric’s review of the next four issues to find out for sure, but I’d put smart money on him liking it. We’re going to break the series down by issues of four, and we’re reading out of the slick “Backstage Edition,” which is a finely packaged piece in itself.

Props to the art by Andy Belanger, and the covers by Kagan McLeod.


Issue one: A Sea of Troubles

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

and by opposing end them.”

– Hamlet, III,i

In issue one we’re introduced to the Shadow King, Hamlet (naturally), who is shipwrecked and washes up on the shore of Richard III’s kingdom that he rules with MacBeth (well, more like Lady MacBeth). I’m going to try to stay away from plot points, as I would rather not ruin the joy of getting introduced to the various Shakespearean characters in new and fun ways. And, no, I’m not talking about them being cast as steam punk robots or high school sweethearts. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The series starts well. There’s a shipwreck, a ghost, good art (the panels with the swords coming out of the water are great), comic-style voice over, pirates, mystery and magic.

The first issue gets you hooked in, and a classic line to end. It establishes that these are Shakespearean characters, but this is a different world.

The idea of Hamlet having to kill Shakespeare to bring his father back to life is a nice touch.

Bonus about the backstage edition: there are character and line descriptors at the end of each issue giving those without an encyclopedic knowledge of characters a taste of the original text.

Characters introduced: Hamlet, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, Richard III, the Witches, Lady Macbeth


Issue two: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“By the pricking of my thumbs

Something wicked this way comes”

– Macbeth, IV,i

Enter Ratcliff, and others, as well, as new locales, new intrigue and more about this civil war between RIII and Juliet. Tell me I just didn’t sell you on that last sentence. What’s nice about the series is that characters come into play in different ways. Sometimes, they just show up, and sometimes they’re alluded to previously.

Iago shows up, and is very well written. We all know he’s evil, but we only know that because we’ve seen Othello. What if he’s part of a story that includes other cruel and conniving characters like R III and Lady Macbeth? How does he fit?

Read a find out.

Also, we have the introductions of the “prodigals of Shakespeare” adding a lovely touch of superstitious masses mixed with nerds that obviously really love the bard. Hmmm. Do I know any of those types?

The writers do a clever thing where they add Shakespearean lines or scenes into different situations. Richard III does his best Cornwall impression and takes some poor guy’s eyes out, while Iago ironically delivers the gem, “keep up your bright swords… or blood shall rust them” riffing on my favourite of Othello’s catchphrases.

Characters added: Ratcliffe, Iago, Falstaff (naturally), Tamora, Angelo, and Hastings.


Issue three: The Fool Doth Think He is Wise

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wis man knows himself to be a fool,”

– As You Like It, V,i

Alright nerds. Get ready for some boobs. It’s a sad fact about comic books that they focus particular attention to the vivacious curves of the well-endowed, and Kill Shakespeare is, unfortunately, no exception.

Yes, I like boobs like the best of them, but I mean come on. Every female character in a comic book does not have to have huge knockers no matter if they are the Merry Wives of Windsor or Lady MacBeth.

Ok. Rant done. Feminist inside of me argued for.

The Fallstaff/Hamlet scenes that take up a few pages in this issue are very fun, and one of those great ‘what ifs’ of Shakespeare. What if Fallstaff’s bombast was paired with Hamlet’s melancholy. A great what if answered in issue three. Also, what if Richard III and Macbeth were sitting at a table together? Answered.

Puck (Robin Goodfellow) shows up and his design is great. This is what makes comics fun: no reliance on human actors.

I should give a belated shoutout to colourist Ian Herring. His work stands out in the comic series.

And, dang, if Connor McCreery and Anthony Del Col go right into Poe-land, where Christopher Moore did in The Serpent of Venice. It’s a killer ending, and I won’t ruin it. I will, however, point out that Moore’s book came first. I’m not saying the idea was stolen, or that it doesn’t work every time, but still…

Dang.

Characters added: Macbeth, Puck, Titus (referenced), Olivia


 

Issue Four: So Wise, So Young, Never Do Live Long

Courtesy - IDW Publishing

Courtesy – IDW Publishing

“So wise so young, they say, do never live long,”

– Richard III,i

Great first page. Well drawn, well coloured and well executed.

Nothing makes a comic hum like a great first page.

The continuation of cross-dressing from issue three is a nice add to the story, as you can’t have Shakespeare without a little Gender Bending. Hey ho. Have you bought your copy of ‘Zounds! yet? I don’t know why I just thought of that. Hmmmmm. Click here.

Again, the writers are careful to hold characters back, so that we get humdingers like in issue four when probably the best ‘what if’ turns up when Juliet is paired with Othello. Yes! Can’t say I don’t dig that. Oh, and see how Juliet is designed? More of that.

Also, the weaselly Parolles is a great addition, as is Nerissa.

This is the first look at the other side of the civil war (although I feel like there may be more than just two sides). Much of the issue is build up with a very well-done payoff in the end. The close ups of Othello and Don John are nice, and when Othello lays eyes on Iago, even better. It’s an amazingly designed page with all the passion and emotion one would expect from the two if they were to see each other after the play Othello is finished.

There’s a reason why Othello is one of the Bard Brawl’s favourites. The characters from that play always add a huge chunk of amazing.

Characters added: Juliet, Othello, Parolles, Nerissa, Robert Shallow, Don John

Come back next time when Eric continues with issues five through eight of Kill Shakespeare.


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She’s the Man (2006), Andy Fickman (director)

29 Dec

Twelfth Night is fast approaching, so now’s the time to approach Twelfth Night. (See what we did there? Of course you did!)

In order to celebrate along with Shakespeare – and buy us some time while we get our act together for 2105 –  we’ll be reposting our Twelfth Night podcasts starting tomorrow.

Want to get back into the swing of things before our sweet voices hit your ears again?

We got you covered.

Check out Zoey Baldwin’s review of the film She’s The Man (an adaptation of Twelfth Night). And once you’re read that, watch the full film which we have so helpfully linked at the bottom of the page!

Enjoy and see you next time!

Zoey Baldwin

High school soccer movie She’s the Man’s hardly a match for Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will—Shakespeare’s hilarious tale of mistaken identity and unrequited love—begins with a shipwreck on the shores of Illyria.

Or, in the case of the 2006 film She’s the Man, on the soccer pitch at Illyria boarding school. No one is presumed dead in this case; Sebastian Hastings (James Kirk (not the captain of NCC-1701-A)) has gone to London to play with his band without his parents’ knowledge.

After the girls soccer team at her school gets cut, his twin sister, Viola (Amanda Bynes), takes this as an opportunity to play soccer on her level—with the boys. And a wig. And a rather unconvincing voice timbre.

Viola hatches the switcharoo idea after her mother, who is dying for a debutante daughter, says, “Sometimes I think you might as well be your brother.” And one gratuitous salon montage underscored with an uppity chick rock cover of “You’re Gonna Make it After All” and complete with stick-on Yosemite Sam moustaches later, Viola sets her plan in action.

She tells each of her conveniently divorced parents she’s at the other’s house, and sets off for Sebastian’s new school. (Of course, this only works because no one at Illyria has met Sebastian yet.)

When Viola starts posing as Sebastian, she suddenly dons an awkward, half-southern accent and saying things like “Word, g-money.” Problems arise when her dreamy roommate, Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum) spots her tampons. To get out of the awkward situation, Viola sticks a tampon up her nose, claiming she uses them for nosebleeds.

Much like the play, Viola and Duke work out an arrangement. Viola will help Duke woo the gorgeous blonde Olivia (Laura Ramsay), and Duke helps Viola improve her soccer skills so she can make first string and kick her ex-boyfriend’s butt in the season opener. Too bad Viola is falling for Duke the whole time, and he thinks she’s her brother. Ruh-roh! Drama, drama, drama, happy ending ensues. I won’t spoil it for you.

There are a number of components in the film that could leave you scratching your head. Tatum’s Duke never seems suspicious that he’s living with a co-ed. I’m willing to suspend disbelief a little bit, but she’s not remotely convincing. The wig isn’t bad, sure, but how do the heart-to-hearts and awkward moments in the locker room not tip Duke off? And how does Olivia not realize she’s flirting with a girl?

As is the case with the original play, there’s no use trying to make sense of how a set of fraternal twins (of opposite genders) would be confused for one another. Or how when Sebastian suddenly returns from London/his watery grave, Olivia has no idea she wasn’t crushing on him all along. And so on.

This is all well and good. The play is not meant to be deep. But though the Bard’s original version is a light romp, it is filled with genuine laughs, pranks and chaos. She’s the Man, on the other hand, relies on kissing booths, debutante balls and chemistry lab partner dynamics. (Yes, Olivia falls for Viola/Sebastian in chemistry. What are the odds of that?!)

 

In addition to a fair dose of cheesiness:

a number of my favorite characters aren’t done their full justice—namely the staff in Olivia’s court like Feste, Maria, and the perpetually drunk Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. True, in She’s the Man Duke has two teammates named Toby and Andrew, but they are in high school and, sadly, never drunk. (Just kidding! Stay in school, kids.)

We do get a solid dose of Malvolio in Olivia’s obsessive sidekick Malcolm Festes, but we never get to see him in yellow, cross-gartered stockings, which is disappointing. He even has a pet tarantula named Malvolio, which he pretends to lose in an attempt to prevent Viola/Sebastian from hooking up with Olivia.

 

The most famous verses work their way into the film, as expected, but it’s actually the only one that does. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” is used as a cliché line from Duke after Viola’s true identity is revealed in the middle of their season opening soccer game. A bit out of context, if you ask me, considering that we see that line in Malvolio’s big speech when he reads the letter Maria writes to fool him into thinking Olivia holds a torch for him.

You might be asking yourself, why should I support a celebrity who’s spinning off the rails? But people, this is Amanda Bynes pre-bizarre Twitter habits. Whatever she claims has not snapped inside her head definitely hadn’t snapped yet, so this movie’s pretty easy watching.

She was cute once! I promise. Any All That fans out there?

If Bynes’ presence puts you off, perhaps your attention might be redeemed by Channing Tatum’s irresistible charm. Besides Tatum, the only other beacon in the movie is David Cross (Oops. I mean David Cross) as Illyria’s overly friendly headmaster, Horatio Gold. But even an Arrested Development alum can’t fully rescue this awkward, unconvincing adaptation.

Plus, let’s face it, no high school Shakespeare film will ever touch what 10 Things I Hate About You did for The Taming of the Shrew. (Heath Ledger’s adorable serenade of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is forever burned on my brain.)

She’s the Man is pretty bland. I’d recommend it for sick days, if it comes on TBS or Bravo or something. Don’t go out of your way.

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Much Ado About Nothing (2012), Joss Whedon (director)

19 Jul

Miki Laval

The rumours started as soon as the cameras stopped rolling: Josh Whedon had just wrapped a modern day adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Famously, the play pits one of Shakespeare’s best written female characters, Beatrice, against Benedict in a full out war of wit and disdain for all things love related. Whedon’s reputation is for delivering hot female characters who are strong and complex. Endless discussions surround the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and feminism, but for now I’ll just say the combination of Whedon and Shakespeare sounded promising.

Also, “Whedonites” are diehard. As soon as the press release went out, the internet lit up in speculation.

Adding to the hype: the mere twelve shooting days the director took while on a post-production break from The Avengers, and the fact he cast no big names stars, but instead rounded up friends and family. Plus, he used his own home as the principle location. Oh, and he shot the whole thing in black and white. Basically the creator of Buffy Summers broke all the Hollywood rules when it comes to making a Shakespeare movie.

Still, despite a guaranteed audience, given the source material, the summer movie release, and the lack of pyrotechnics the film played here in Montreal, for one week only. There’s a good chance you missed its speedy run through the theatres, so here are four reasons why you should definitely rent, download, borrow, or by some other means get at look at this sexy, dark, and at times absurd love story:

1. It’s gorgeous. Just take a look at the perfectly stylized images on the film’s web site. Each shot looks as carefully composed as a still photograph, but speed is actually part of the aesthetic. There’s a spontaneous and off-handed feel to the scenes that combined with the 60’s style wardrobe gives the film a French New Wave vibe. A few stand out moments: Benedict casually sitting next to a little girl’s dollhouse while he delivers his speech on bachelorhood; the dazed Claudio in the pool, with snorkel gear, sipping from his martini glass; a masked ball with sequined clad Cirque du Soleil type acrobats, twinkle lights, and smooth jazz.

2. It’s fun. Whedon obviously gets Shakespeare’s slap-stick type humour. There are pratfalls down stairs, buffoonish jumps behind bushes, and ridiculous exercise lunges. As Beatrice and Benedict loose their cool they begin to literally trip over their own feet, and their transformation into love struck happy goofballs is laugh out loud funny. Then there are the winks to modern day technology that play like inside jokes between Whedon and the audience: messages arrive by smart phone; music plays on ipod speakers; cops and mobster types adjust their Miami Vice sunglasses. Though the film definitely takes a stark look at the dark underbelly of love, the physical comedy, and the modern touches play up the production’s fun side.

3. It’s sexy. Usually when the Bard gets the Hollywood treatment it’s time to roll out the magnificent landscapes, the castles, the crinolines, and other grand and elaborate Merchant-Ivory-type tricks from the director’s toolbox. Here, instead, the camera is mostly hand held, and the lighting is natural. The pared down aesthetics create a sensual mood inviting you inside the scenes. Plus the film bounces along as one long extended boozy party in a spare but elegant house where everyone looks fabulous.

4. The acting is stellar. Unless we’re talking BBC version, often there are a few weak links in any given Shakespeare movie. (Sorry Keanu, I’m a fan, but I sill haven’t forgotten your stilted interpretation of “the Bastard Prince” in Branagh’s 1993 version.)

Special mention goes to Amy Acker’s Beatrice who is all sting and verve, then glowing devotion. Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk are hilarious as the blumbering constables. Sean Maher as Don John is pure menace. And Clark Gregg plays Leonato with a languid slightly tipsy ease until he turns frighteningly heartless.

 

Despite the film’s numerous charms I did wonder how a modern audience would react to the emphasis on virginity. When asked about the play’s anachronistic narrative Whedon himself said he wanted to stress “the human, not the not the hymen.” Then I remembered the numerous online slut-shaming tragedies covered by the media and realized the play wasn’t dated at all. Hurt, betrayal and jealousy are, of course, still with us, but the harsh truth is, even today a girl accused of sleeping around can have her reputation broken along with her spirit. That’s when I realized that Whedon had captured a level of contemporary meaning in this famously saucy story I hadn’t considered.

Of course, Much Ado About Nothing is not a tragedy, but a comedy, so yes, all the calamities schemes and deceptions are eventually smoothed out. But along the way, Whedon delivers an endearing film that crackles with wit, passion, betrayal, humour and heartache, in one smooth package. In the end, the much ado over the movie is definitely about something.

Here’s a taste.

 

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She’s the Man (2006), Andy Fickman (director)

12 May

Zoey Baldwin

High school soccer movie She’s the Man’s hardly a match for Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will—Shakespeare’s hilarious tale of mistaken identity and unrequited love—begins with a shipwreck on the shores of Illyria.

Or, in the case of the 2006 film She’s the Man, on the soccer pitch at Illyria boarding school. No one is presumed dead in this case; Sebastian Hastings (James Kirk (not the captain of NCC-1701-A)) has gone to London to play with his band without his parents’ knowledge.

After the girls soccer team at her school gets cut, his twin sister, Viola (Amanda Bynes), takes this as an opportunity to play soccer on her level—with the boys. And a wig. And a rather unconvincing voice timbre.

Viola hatches the switcharoo idea after her mother, who is dying for a debutante daughter, says, “Sometimes I think you might as well be your brother.” And one gratuitous salon montage underscored with an uppity chick rock cover of “You’re Gonna Make it After All” and complete with stick-on Yosemite Sam moustaches later, Viola sets her plan in action.

She tells each of her conveniently divorced parents she’s at the other’s house, and sets off for Sebastian’s new school. (Of course, this only works because no one at Illyria has met Sebastian yet.)

When Viola starts posing as Sebastian, she suddenly dons an awkward, half-southern accent and saying things like “Word, g-money.” Problems arise when her dreamy roommate, Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum) spots her tampons. To get out of the awkward situation, Viola sticks a tampon up her nose, claiming she uses them for nosebleeds.

Much like the play, Viola and Duke work out an arrangement. Viola will help Duke woo the gorgeous blonde Olivia (Laura Ramsay), and Duke helps Viola improve her soccer skills so she can make first string and kick her ex-boyfriend’s butt in the season opener. Too bad Viola is falling for Duke the whole time, and he thinks she’s her brother. Ruh-roh! Drama, drama, drama, happy ending ensues. I won’t spoil it for you.

There are a number of components in the film that could leave you scratching your head. Tatum’s Duke never seems suspicious that he’s living with a co-ed. I’m willing to suspend disbelief a little bit, but she’s not remotely convincing. The wig isn’t bad, sure, but how do the heart-to-hearts and awkward moments in the locker room not tip Duke off? And how does Olivia not realize she’s flirting with a girl?

As is the case with the original play, there’s no use trying to make sense of how a set of fraternal twins (of opposite genders) would be confused for one another. Or how when Sebastian suddenly returns from London/his watery grave, Olivia has no idea she wasn’t crushing on him all along. And so on.

This is all well and good. The play is not meant to be deep. But though the Bard’s original version is a light romp, it is filled with genuine laughs, pranks and chaos. She’s the Man, on the other hand, relies on kissing booths, debutante balls and chemistry lab partner dynamics. (Yes, Olivia falls for Viola/Sebastian in chemistry. What are the odds of that?!)

 

In addition to a fair dose of cheesiness:

a number of my favorite characters aren’t done their full justice—namely the staff in Olivia’s court like Feste, Maria, and the perpetually drunk Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. True, in She’s the Man Duke has two teammates named Toby and Andrew, but they are in high school and, sadly, never drunk. (Just kidding! Stay in school, kids.)

We do get a solid dose of Malvolio in Olivia’s obsessive sidekick Malcolm Festes, but we never get to see him in yellow, cross-gartered stockings, which is disappointing. He even has a pet tarantula named Malvolio, which he pretends to lose in an attempt to prevent Viola/Sebastian from hooking up with Olivia.

 

The most famous verses work their way into the film, as expected, but it’s actually the only one that does. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” is used as a cliché line from Duke after Viola’s true identity is revealed in the middle of their season opening soccer game. A bit out of context, if you ask me, considering that we see that line in Malvolio’s big speech when he reads the letter Maria writes to fool him into thinking Olivia holds a torch for him.

You might be asking yourself, why should I support a celebrity who’s spinning off the rails? But people, this is Amanda Bynes pre-bizarre Twitter habits. Whatever she claims has not snapped inside her head definitely hadn’t snapped yet, so this movie’s pretty easy watching.

She was cute once! I promise. Any All That fans out there?

If Bynes’ presence puts you off, perhaps your attention might be redeemed by Channing Tatum’s irresistible charm. Besides Tatum, the only other beacon in the movie is David Cross (Oops. I mean David Cross) as Illyria’s overly friendly headmaster, Horatio Gold. But even an Arrested Development alum can’t fully rescue this awkward, unconvincing adaptation.

Plus, let’s face it, no high school Shakespeare film will ever touch what 10 Things I Hate About You did for The Taming of the Shrew. (Heath Ledger’s adorable serenade of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” is forever burned on my brain.)

She’s the Man is pretty bland. I’d recommend it for sick days, if it comes on TBS or Bravo or something. Don’t go out of your way.

 

 

The First Part of Henry the Sixth (1983), Jane Howell (Director)

22 Feb

I have finally understood why, at least for the last 30 years, Henry VI, part 1 is not taught or read: Jane Howell’s BBC production of The First part of Henry the Sixth took it out back and shot it. Repeatedly.

Where to begin?

The First Part of Henry the Sixth (Tv 1983) is not, strictly speaking, a movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. While it does make use of some cinematic techniques, it is essentially a filmed staging of a stage play without any of the energy or tension which accompanies the live theatre experience.

That, I think, may be exactly where the problems start for Howell: she doesn’t seem to be able to decide whether this is a movie or a play. The result is a schizophrenic blend of kitsch costumes, tired stage conventions and amateurish camera work. It’s a distracting hot mess that seems especially designed only to confirm the popular opinion, that Henry VI part 1 is a bad play.

The sets and costumes look like they were produced for and by a high school drama class. One possible reason cited for this choice is to showcase the often petty and childish nature of the infighting which characterises the War of the Roses. However, I feel that it backfires in The First part of Henry the Sixth: instead of showing us the petty nature of the War of the Roses (which seems plain enough in Shakespeare’s language anyway), it turns Henry VI part 1 into a bit of a joke by cheapening what are also the very serious consequences of these wars. Very unfortunate.

Jane’s First Part of Henry the Sixth is part of a larger collection of made-for-TV movies produced by the BBC in the late seventies and early eighties. The BBC television Shakespeare was an ambitious project not entirely unlike the Bard Brawl’s in scope: to produce a filmed version of each one of Shakespeare’s plays. And to their credit, they did manage to complete the project – you can order the complete 38 DVD set from the BBC or on Amazon and then you will own this gem forever! Or you can buy something you’ll actually watch. Whatever.

Given that the purpose of the BBC’s project was to produce largely faithful to the text versions of these plays, Howell’s film works its way through Shakespeare’s play without any noticeable leaps, omissions or inventions on Howell’s part. The setting of the play is fifteenth century Europe and it opens with English nobility gathered for Henry V’s funeral. The language is Shakespeare’s and the movie ends where Shakespeare’s play ends.

One of the few differences: Howell chose to open the film with a dirge sung by Henry V’s son who was played by 40 year-old Peter Benson.

I guess they missed the part where Henry VI was nine months old when his father was killed, and about 12 years-old during the rest of the play.

I’ll spare you the plot synopsis seeing as we’ve already done one for each act and Howell’s film follows almost exactly Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1. (You can refer to our previous posts on Henry VI, part 1 if you need a quick plot reminder.)

After all of this, is The First Part of Henry VI a total wash? No. There are a few, precious – oh, so very rare and precious – pearls locked up within this clam.

Trevor Peacock manages to deliver a Talbot which is every bit the hardened, noble English warrior of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1. Brenda Blethyn plays a very energetic and active Joan who has the entire French court wrapped around her fingers. Too bad the stage fighting, a large part of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1, is so bad. It just turned Pucelle’s fight with Talbot – which is one of many great action scenes in this play – into a farce

As I watch this, I wonder why Howell insists on draining just about every one of the action sequences of its dramatic potential?

In my opinion, however, the strongest and most successful character is Richard Planatagent, Duke of York who is played by none other than the brilliant Bernard Hill. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, it should. But maybe you know him by his other name, King Théoden of Rohan.

While the BBC’s project to adapt every one of Shakespeare’s plays to film verbatim was an excellent initiative from an archival perspective, it really failed to produce something that brings Shakespeare to a new audience in a way which is both easily accessible and engaging. In the end, Howell’s choices in The First Part of Henry the Sixth results in a finished product which is alienating and off-putting.

The First Part of Henry the Sixth remains an excellent study… in how NOT to bring Shakespeare’s works to life.

(Eric Jean is co-creator of the Bard Brawl.)

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Scotland, Pa. (2001), Billy Morrisette (writer/director)

25 Jan

Jay Reid

“We’re not bad people, Mac.  We’re just underachievers that need to make up for lost time.” – Pat McBeth.

If Maura Tierney said that to me, I’d probably be okay with killing my jerk of a boss too.  Tierney plays Pat McBeth, writer/director Billy Morrisette’s Lady MacBeth in Scotland, PA, his unusual adaptation of the Bard’s Scottish classic Macbeth.

A lot of guys will do crazy things for love, but James LeGros’s “Mac” (Macbeth) certainly takes it the extra mile.  Tierney is the type of hot, cool chick with a wicked streak that a lot of guys would probably do unspeakable things for (not that I ever did).  Sure she can be a bit crazy and mean, but she’s got a certain appeal for men looking for something more than the typical girly chick.  She’s the type of girl who could chug more beers than your pals.  The type of girl who doesn’t mind having sex in the back room of a fast food joint.  The type of girl that brightens up your life and you’d do anything for because you want to keep her happy and you don’t want to screw it up. Mac, poor hapless schmuck that he is, gets sucked into her scheme to move up the fast food chain at the local burger joint where they both work.

Morrisette relocates the play from the castles and moors of Scotland to a thriving restaurant in a sleepy Pennsylvanian suburb in the 70s, which means the soundtrack is going to be chock full of classic rock hits.  Unfortunately, most of the tracks are from Bad Company, but despite the lack of variety, it’s still appreciated. If you don’t like the movie, you’ll probably enjoy the music at least.

The burger joint is run by Norm Duncan (James Rebhorn).  He’s a bit of dorky dad, trying to push his sons into taking over the family business, although they seem more interested in being rock stars or exploring their sexuality than managing their father’s legacy.  Norm steals good ideas from the underappreciated Mac, who actually works hard at his job and does have an interest in taking over the restaurant.  Norm is about to take Mac’s best idea, a drive-through window, and make a huge profit.  Does he thank Mac?  Apparently not enough or there would be no movie.  He makes one of his disinterested sons into a manager instead of Mac, which is really the last straw for this struggling burger flipper and his wife.  Tired of getting passed over, Mac and Pat take matters into their own hands, leading to one of the most ridiculous and hilarious ways to dispatch a character in Shakespeare’s history.  Without giving too much away, it involves a deep fryer.

The film’s most interesting characters are Mac and Pat, while the others are broadly drawn spins on Shakespeare’s characters.  They will make you laugh, but it’s hard to invest in any of them.  So when they start getting killed off as Mac slaughters his way to the top, you just kind of shrug.  So it goes.

Christopher Walken has an interesting turn as Lieutenant MacDuff who investigates Norm’s death after Mac and Pat take over the restaurant and turn it into McDonalds style fast-food joint.  Walken plays typical Walken, amusing and menacing at the same time.  While he puts some pressure on the main characters with his presence, he isn’t really much of a foil.  The last battle between him and Mac lacks drama, and while I wasn’t expecting an epic sword fight, it seems a bit anticlimactic.

There are plenty of clever spins on scenes and characters in the original story in Scotland, PA, and each of the changes fit the setting in the film.   Yes, Lady Macbeth/Pat has something that won’t come off her hands, but it isn’t blood.  And the three witches are in there, but they’ve been transformed into three stoners who hang around an amusement park.  One of them (Amy Smart), dresses like a fortune teller, promising Mac future glory in the restaurant business.

Scotland, PA is more of a dark comedy than anything else, but it’s perhaps only funny for the serious Shakespeare fan.  Other than that, aside from a few fun scenes, it’s fairly unremarkable, which is why it might be hard to find on DVD.  It lacks the drama and tragedy of the original story, which makes it difficult to invest in the outcome of events.  You can invest in the love story between Mac and Pat, who strive to achieve success as underachievers.

It’s a Macbeth adaptation that is about more than ruthless ambition.  Mac may be interested in becoming a big shot, but he does everything because he loves Pat and wants to make her happy.  While Pat may come across as manipulative, she sees her husband struggling and wants more for him and for herself.  She wants to live the good suburban life, full of big houses, flashy cars and swimming pools.

It seems odd to set Macbeth in a burger joint, since killing your way to owning a restaurant pales in comparison to becoming King of Scotland, but it works within the setting of 1970s America – the Me Decade.  The characters in the film are so well established that you understand that taking over this restaurant and making it into a successful business means as much to them as becoming King.  They are down and out, slaving away in their menial jobs and drinking themselves into a stupor in some suburb like every other poor sap and for a brief moment, they see a chance to take their piece of the American Dream.  Would you really blame them for trying?

Jay Reid is the Bard Brawl social media co-ordinator and contributor to its blog and podcast. His short film Byline is in post-production and due out later this year.

Looking for Richard (1996), Director Al Pacino

9 Jan

Laura MacDonald

Prologue

Was ever woman in this humour wooed?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
                        Richard III, 1. 2

As anyone who has lived with me can attest, I am a notoriously grumpy movie watcher and as this video was popped into the DVD player I muttered, “There better not be any special features.  This movie is, like, all special features.  All behind the scenes stuff…grumble, grumble…”

To which my much better half replied, “That’s pretty much what a documentary is, sweetie.”

I responded with silence (silence and the sound of a chip bag being opened).

Looking for Richard and Finding Al

It’s a docu-drama type thing.

Al Pacino

Spot on, Al.  Spot on.

Touted as a behind-the-scenes look at the production of an American film version of Richard the III, featuring one of Shakespeare’s most villainous of villains, we watch the tension, the struggle and the efforts to understand Shakespeare from a modern day perspective and yet, here’s the catch: there is no movie being filmed.

This is the movie.  Richard the III is not.

Looking for Richard is a movie about Al Pacino playing Richard.  Cultivating the perfect scenario where he can rule the Shakespearean landscape as he sees fit, cutting and pasting the text to meet his aim, charming famous actors into joining him in his ill-defined endeavour, ruling the silver-screen…his way.

Sound familiar?  Richard as King, Al as director.

Hmmmm…

Now, after tactlessly implying that Al Pacino is an amoral, murderous, covetous scoundrel, I will follow up by saying that I really did enjoy some of his directorial choices.   The aim, as stated early in the film, is to make Shakespeare accessible to an American audience.  I believe that they have achieved this in Looking for Richard – that by the end of the movie we, the audience, do find him.

By allowing us to sit in on the table readings and the discussions and debates that ensue, we learn about the play along with all the famous players in this film (Hey! That’s the premise for the Bard Brawl).  As audience members, we aren’t intimidated because we can see that we are not the only ones who are confused.  Even the seasoned actors are more than a little bit muddled. We are merely joining the ranks of centuries of confused Shakespeare-o-phobes.

We are also given a glimpse at the common-folk as Pacino and co. take a casual walk down a New York street falling into lockstep with locals who give their two cents on Shakespeare.  They meet resistance (“It sucked”).  They meet clichés (“To be, or not to be”). They meet pragmatic Brits (“He’s a great export”).  They also meet a wise-beyond-his-toothless-grin man who believes that Shakespearean language gives us access to our feelings and that, “if we felt what we said we’d say less and mean more.”

Yeah, what that guy said.

Pacino also does a beautiful (albeit an overt) job of juxtaposing the urban New York landscape with the opening lines from Richard the III and we start to see how that Shakespeare can thrive in modernity.  Thrive but not without obstacles.  We watch as Pacino and his gregarious cohort Frederick Kimball try to seek inspiration by travelling to England to visit the actual birth room of Shakespeare only to be interrupted by the sound of sirens.  Alternatively, there is a lovely brief moment when Pacino is walking down some city street and we can hear the sound of horse hooves clopping by.

It gives a whole new meaning to the word timeless.

Another shining moment in the film is when Kimball is explaining iambic pentameter by comparing an iamb to an anteater:

And five of them: Da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da.  Make a pentameter line, five iambs.  An iamb is like an anteater. Very high in the back and very short, little front legs: da-DA!

You just can’t beat a solid anteater analogy.

What falls short in Looking for Richard are the scenes from the “movie they are filming”; all the characters seem considerably more believable with their backwards baseball caps, messy hair and civvies.  Their Elizabethan garb becomes a distraction and actually goes against their effort to make Shakespeare accessible to an audience that is not familiar with the plays.  This is not to say that it never works but, in the context of this film, when we are being thrown from rehearsal to table work and back, from in-costume to baseball cap to in-costume again; from trendy Ray Bans to bejeweled crowns, it is a lot to take in .  Pacino, speaking about the language of Shakespeare, asserts that it is not difficult.  He just says, “you have to tune up”.  I would suggest that he take his own advice when it comes to the costume as well – our eyes need to get accustomed to the floppy hats, over-sized crowns and Alec Baldwin in a puffy Seinfeldian shirt.

Truth be told, I started getting anxiety while watching Looking for Richard but was too scared to ask if the movie version of Richard III was ever really produced because if it was, I might have to watch it.  One of the scholars in the film stated that “The action of the play, the sense of exciting movement is Richard’s finding out the point beyond which people won’t go.” I believe that sentiment holds true for this film as well.

Epilogue

An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told.
                        Richard III, 4. 4

In terms of introducing an unfamiliar play to the general masses, Pacino was on the right track by stacking the deck with so many familiar faces: Alec Baldwin, Derek Jacobi, Sir Arthur John Gielgud, Winona Ryder, Kenneth Branagh, the principal from The Breakfast Club (though he has no lines, let alone a gem like “Don’t mess with the bull, young man.  You’ll get the horns”) and Kevin Spacey, to name a few.  We get a peek at the struggle and discovery involved in putting up Shakespeare for a modern day audience.  Or at least the struggle involved with thinking of putting it up.  And since struggle and discovery are the ingredients to every good quest, I say it’s worth embarking on the journey…as long as you have plenty of chips.

Laura Macdonald