Projections - Movie Reviews

Love's Labour's Lost Love's Labour's Lost

Kenneth Branagh daringly dishes out his new Shakespearean labor of love as a joyous throwback to Hollywood's heyday with Marlene Dietrich and Josef Von Sternberg.  His Love's Labour's Lost has a screwball, creative entertainment value, as the Bard's text is greatly reduced.  The original dialogue is uniquely blended into a musical format that uses classic pieces from the likes of Gershwin, Kern, and Berlin.  Though one must listen closely to the words, Branagh gives clarity and frivolity to this sprightly crisp adaptation of a lost genre, one that's diametrically opposed to the modern takes on Will's plays.  Without bigger named actors, unlike the similarly diverting Everyone Says I Love You from Woody Allen, the affectionate writer and director is pleasurable even though the players and set pieces don't have any union with the social mores of the times - pre WWII 1939 Europe.

This light, fluffy romp centers on the King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) who goes with his buddies (Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester and Branagh) to the countryside in order to avoid lovely women.  However, the Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her attendants (Natascha NcElhone, Emily Martimer, Carmen Ejogo) wield their charms as they visit the King.

Among the capricious types not directly in the main story line is Timothy Spall's funny language impaired lecherous Spanish nobleman and Nathan Lane's flighty clownish vaudevillian, Costard.  Stefania Rocca appears as a country tramp and Geraldine McEwan presides as an academic instructor for the King.

With disheartening news concerning the King of France, the princess servers the new love connections with the King's men.  And a year long split is invoked in the name of love and all happiness that is meant for the couples.

Branagh covers the story with its long dance segments, dialogue, and terse musical numbers by inserting black and white newsreel footage.  He smartly works with editors Nil and Dan Farrell with facile finesse to link dance, dialogue, and song within the minimal set pieces; the King's library being memorable for Branagh's well executed view of multiple deceits.

Though this fairy tale hodgepodge even cites a classic like Casablanca, Branagh ranges from Astaire to the likes of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in Singing in the Rain.  The latter deft dancer being the model for Lester who visibly rises above the others kept in check by Stuart Hipps' crafty choreography.  From Kern's "I Won't Dance" to Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me", Love's Labour's Lost is never lost in offering off beat, old fashioned entertainment, as Branagh selflessly gives way to a mature McClhone, a lordly, dashing Nivola, and an oddly flashy     Silverstone, who delights anyone with an open mind in this musically romantic comedy appreciative of the classics.

Love's Labour's Lost

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