Main cast: Kenneth Branagh (Berowne), Natascha McElhone (Rosaline), Alessandro Nivola (The Young King), Alicia Silverstone (The Young Princess), Adrian Lester (Dumaine), Carmen Ejogo (Maria), Matthew Lillard (Longaville), Emily Mortimer (Katherine), Geraldine McEwan (Holofernia), Nathan Lane (Costard), Timothy Spall (Don Armado), and Richard Briers (Nathaniel)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
I must confess that Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of the few Shakespearean plays that I have never bothered to read in my school days. Hence, I walk into the cinema with no inkling or any preconceived notions of plot or expectations. This one turns to be light and funny, and it has a soundtrack of old jazzy tunes from Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, and other musicians of the middle twentieth century jazz era. Great songs, but I must say there are also some weird chicken dancing thing going on in here.
It’s World War One era, but the young King of Navarre and three of his loyal noblemen – Berowne, Longaville, and Dumain – decide to closet themselves at the local university in pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. This also means, of course, forsaking women, wine and song. Berowne is the only one sensible enough to protest, but you know how kings are. They “suggest”, you obey.
Hearing of their vows of chastity, our Princess of France and her three loyal noblewomen – Katherine, Rosaline, and Maria – decide to take on a flimsy excuse like debt to drop by for a visit. These ladies are in love with each one of the four men since a dance last year. Would hormones, err… love triumphs over vows? What do you think?
This revisionist adaptation sticks faithfully to the original dialogues, or so I think (it feels like it, at least), and I have a fine time watching these young beautiful people run around in their comedy of errors. Costard and Don Amado provide great comic relief, as do principal Holofernia (who sings wonderfully!) and the local parish priest Nathaniel.
However, the real star has to be Natascha McElhone. Her luminous eyes flash vulnerability and mischief with ease and her attractive dimples only add charm to the whole affair. Alicia Silverstone is adequate but… well, a little bratty in her portrayal of the Princess. Matthew Lillard is miscast, however, for he looks as if he is about to take out a knife and start a killing spree any minute, and not-too-young Kenneth Branagh looks out of place surrounded by these young people. Really, must he hog the young people’s limelight?
Love’s Labour’s Lost is fun, breezy, and oh, there’s one short but surprisingly steamy dance act that just has to be seen to be savored. But it is also light, undemanding, and ultimately pleasant but unmemorable.