Top positive review
Plenty of Love and Labour but something is definitely Lost
on 11 April 2017
About 17 years late watching this but have finally managed to catch it. Running time is fast for a Branagh Shakespeare film (90 mins) and he clearly had to make some costly compromises. Visually this is a lovely film full of colour, somewhat stagey composition and some great performances, all somewhat curtailed by a savagely cut text that makes room for Branagh's key idea- classic song and dance numbers from the days of real hoofing in films like Top Hat and homages to Busby Berkeley cinematography. The use of pastiche pathe film clips cleverly divides up and defines the narrative and Branagh is seemingly a floppy haired youngster (Berowne) in the kings court at Navarre. The casting generally works well though Branagh stalwarts such as Richard Briers are somewhat wasted in cutting room cameos. Tim Spall is fun as Don Armado taking it right to the edge of Shakespearian clowning, whilst Nathan Lane is an assured and goofball Costard. Nice to see a thrillingly young Adrian Lester hoofing like the pro he is and the French Princess is gamely played by Alicia Silverstone.
Overall, Branaghs film catches the central idea of the play but cuts too much text to allow some characters to develop as though (unusually for Branagh) he is scared of boring his audience- there will always be another song along in a minute if there appears to be the hint of a longuer.
However, Branagh's excuse appears to be that it is one of Shakespeare's more obscure stories so lets dump most of the plot and just harp on with the main storyline.
I was genuinely taken with the look of the thing and the singing and dancing is not half bad though Branagh has little vocal range as a singer. Nathan Lane is assured as is Lester and the direction is for want of a better word, pacey... Plenty of Love,Plenty of Labour but something is lost.