We watched this movie on DVD last night (Sunday). Odd, as I mentioned Ken "Mr Autobiography" Branagh in an earlier post, that I watched a movie of his within a day or two. Probably an example of the dreaded "morphic resonance" (not!).
Anyway, back to the movie, it was a blast. Actually I have no idea whether to recommend it or not. One part Shakespeare, one part Gershwin/Porter/Berlin, and one part wartime movietone news, and fantastic art direction. Acting was uneven: the bit parts were great, especially the actor playing Costard (forget his name, sorry) as Bud Flanagan, complete with fur coat. Sadly neither Malcolm nor the girls seemed even to have heard of Bud Flanagan, but my mother loved him and I even saw him and the Crazy Gang once as a young girl. Geraldine McEwan, Richard Briers, the woman playing the French object of TS’s desires (another name forgotten) and Timothy Spall were also side-splitting. How McEwan and Briers made their "mistaken destination letter" scene so funny I will never know, but it was an object lesson in how to do everything with a tiny bit of sparse dialogue. Most of the other actors were decent enough, with Ken as Berowne restraining himself from stealing the show until quite near the end, and Natasha McElhone outclassing all the princesses as the one Berowne loves (can’t remember her name either).
The production design was absolutely wonderful. The production was what I think is called "breathless" in the reviewer’s cliche book. Every 10 mins there was either a spoof newsreel or a song and dance routine, full of clever references and pastiche, and overall very, very short.
Shakespeare for the video game generation, as has probably been said before about this movie. Actually, not Shakespeare at all, more of a selection of excerpts designed to highlight the ludicrous plot. So a fun movie, it certainly made me smile. But I don’t think I was as involved in it as I was when I saw the play at the RSC some years ago — where the language was allowed to speak for itself and the actors given a bit of space to breathe. But I have to admit I was entranced by the support troupe and thought that what they did with really rather feeble lines was pretty exhilerating. Had the girls in stitches too.