Emmy award winner Kenneth Branagh, the man who redefined Shakespeare for a whole new generation with Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, brings the Bard's most delightful comedy to sensational life! Rosalind is a y... more »oung woman living in the court of her uncle when she falls in love with Orlando, a young gentleman of the kingdom. When Rosalind is banished, she flees into the forest of Arden disguised as a man...only to encounter Orlando who has also been exiled! But can she win his heart, disguised as she is? With a setting inspired by 19th century Japan and a star-studded cast including Kevin Kline (Dave, A Prairie Home Companion), Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3, The Lady In The Water) and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2, The Da Vinci Code), AS YOU LIKE IT once again proves that all the world's a stage. Come enjoy!« less
"This movie is beautiful! That's right. That's my whole review. There are stylised Komonos and rich 1890-ish Western costumes. A pallette of amazing reds, maroons and rose colors set against a magical green forest with ancient towering trees and exotic oriental marshes. The romantic comedy element is all about being in love; being giddy with all consuming love. The Shakespearean words are edited short and crisp and are delivered naturalistically and effortlessly by the likes of Kevin Kline and Brian Blessed. Of the leads, David Oyelowo stands out as a very masculine and handsome leading man and Bryce Dallas Howard (an American) more that holds her own with the mostly British cast. Perhaps due to Branagh's pruning of the text, I also found listening to, and understanding As You Like It just as effortless as the actor's delivery. I'm not an English teacher nor an Elizabethean scholar and this movie spoke to me, taking me on a wonderful escape. (NOTE: Make sure to watch all the way through the credits!) It is obvious that Kenneth Branagh puts his whole soul into his movies. Thank you Kenneth!"
'All the world's a stage'
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kenneth Branagh, aside from being a gifted actor with an enormous range of creative character abilities, has once again brought Shakespeare to life on the screen. His previous excursions into the bard's repertoire have included 'Much Ado About Nothing', 'Henry V', 'Love's Labour's Lost', 'Hamlet', and 'Othello', and now he adds one of the bard's most successful comedies AS YOU LIKE IT to his list of successes. Branagh has the gift of making the visual aspects of Shakespeare's stories enhance the language and in doing so he makes Shakespeare sound like brilliant conversation (which it of course is) instead of stilted and brittle old English.
The 'gimmick' used here by Branagh in adapting Shakespeare's play is placing the action in 19th century Japan, and while other less sensitive directors might have opted to insert parody here, Branagh instead makes the story seem all the more plausible - the two feuding brothers (one dark and one light) whose struggle over their estate opens the play before credits with an ingenious silent drama of black leather feudal costumed men invading a genteel house party of lovely people enjoying a Japanese dancer's performance. The original brother is banished with his clan to the Arden forest and there the magic begins. Love between several couples is played in all its manifestations with disguise, misconceptions, lust, and poetry until the play's rollicking end in a song of Hey Nonny Nonny!
The lovers include the disguised Rosalind (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Orlando (David Oyelowo), Celia (Romola Garai) and Oliver (Adrian Lester), the court fool Touchstone (a brilliant Alfred Molina) and Audrey (Janet McTeer), and Sylvius (Alex Wyndham) and Phoebe (Jade Jefferies). Brian Blessed plays the roles of both feuding brothers with style and authority, and Kevin Kline offers a fully realized Jaques - the character who is given the most memorable soliloquies in the play. The settings and imagery (Tim Harvey) are artistic and beautiful and captured with style by cinematographer Roger Lanser, and as with all of Branagh's production the music score (here by Patrick Doyle) is letter perfect and atmospheric.
But in the end the kudos go to Kenneth Branagh for his consistent courage and conviction that Shakespeare's plays are timeless, and his devotion to bringing them to the contemporary audience is to be applauded. This is a fine film - one to own! Grady Harp, August 07"
Sometimes the Forest of Arden ought to be just the Forest of
F. S. L'hoir | Irvine, CA | 11/08/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
""As You Like It" is one of my favorite plays. Grounded in the tradition of Greco-Roman pastoral, the play asks the following question, via Jaques: If man, who is trying to escape the intrigues of court, escapes to the green cabinet of nature, will he not consequently bring the intrigues of court with him, and therefore ruin nature? Shakespeare answers this question, which seems very timely in our warming world of globalization, in the affirmative.
This film, which is peerlessly acted, gains nothing by its Japanese setting, which, admittedly scrumptious to behold, is merely distracting. I fully expected a mincing Gilbert & Sullivan chorus to break into "If you want to know who we are, we are gentlemen of Japan, on every vase and jar, on every screen and fan." I have no objection to updating, nor to removing the setting to another location--or as Shakespeare would say, to another part of the forest. Such a removal was successful in Trevor Nunn's "Twelfth Night," which was set in a Cornish "Illyria." It was also done with delightful tongue-in-cheek in the 1960s' "Midsummer Night's Dream," which focused on a stately British home, labeled "Athens." Furthermore, I even suspended my disbelief when Brannagh set "Much Ado about Nothing" in Tuscany (partly because I love Italy). In none of these cases, did the change of setting disrupt the illusion. By placing "As You Like It"--most of which takes place in the fantastical "Forest of Arden" (to which the characters refer repeatedly)--in the historical context of a violent nineteenth-century Japan, Brannagh disrupts the magic as irrevocably as if he had placed the first scenes in the 1930s' Leni Riefenstall-inspired glamor of the Third Reich and then had everyone escape to the Forest of Bavaria, still calling it the Forest of Arden.
Because Brannagh has already burst the bubble of Shakespeare's magic, his final metatheatrical conceit, of having Rosalind deliver the epilogue (full of gender-bending innuendo, since the part was originally played by a boy playing a girl playing a boy) among the actors dressing-room caravans, falls flat. I also think that Brannagh's moving scenes around, his making cuts (Touchstone, one of Shakespeare's greatest clowns, got lost somewhere in the forest), spoiled the rhythm of the play which takes on an incantatory magic in the "And I for Phebe, And I for Ganymeade, And I for Rosalind, And I for no woman" scene between the pastoral Silvius and Phebe, and the lovers Orlando and Ganymede/Rosalind.
I am also cross with Kenneth Brannagh for recycling the ending which was delightful and far more effective in "Much Ado" ("Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more!"), complete with the actors dancing in circles--all viewed from above among cascading rose-petals (Perhaps they were cherry blossoms this time.).
On the plus side, English subtitles were available, and, as I said, the acting is excellent and Rosalind is more than lovely to look at, as are the costumes.
Although I am generally a great fan of Kenneth Brannagh, I do wish he had left the Forest of Arden in its magical land of nowhere."
Just happy it's finally on film...
Rob Hollister, Jr. | Tallinn, Estonia | 10/27/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Incredibly, this seems to be the first version of Shakespeare's masterpiece of comic wit, As You Like It, in 70 years - since Laurence Olivier's disappointingly dry and frilly 1937 production! If for no other reason, true fans of the Bard will be grateful to Kenneth Branagh for this latest effort, although many of his decisions as director left me scratching my head.
As for mixing the Forest of Arden with the world of Shogun, I was basically neutral. Let Branagh have his artistic license with that one, although I admit it did make the scene where Orlando is attacked by a lion somewhat surreal. (Which may be why it happens off stage in the play.) And sure, the cinematography and landscape are stunning, but what really disappointed me was the way Branagh and the cast chose to play the key roles. As You Like It contains three of Shakespeare's most brilliant major characters: Touchstone the Fool, Jaques the melancholy cynic, and the incomparable Rosalind.
Touchstone trails in brilliance only behind Feste from Twelfth Night, and Lear's Fool from that great tragedy, but sadly, many of his best lines are either cut out of this version, or delivered by Alfred Molina in such a way that he just seems morose. He partially rescues the role with his facial expressions and physical slapstick, but Touchstone can be much more than the rude court goof that he is here. Kevin Kline does fairly well with Jaques, but inexplicably, one of the greatest minor speeches in all Shakespeare ("All the world's a stage...") is delivered in a distant, wide-angle shot with virtually no emotion, so you can't even tell Kline is speaking the lines until the very last words. It seems like they're being read off camera. Last but not least, Rosalind. If you agree with Harold Bloom, Rosalind is one of Shakespeare's three most brilliant minds, in the upper pantheon with Hamlet and Falstaff. She can spar with anyone, and bends the entire cast of As You Like It to her will. While Bryce Dallas Howard admittedly has a big job to do, she just keeps failing to nail the part. Unquestionably lovely and captivating in some scenes, she never quite reaches that saucy, fiery spark that puts Rosalind so far beyond other Shakespearean heroines. It doesn't help that Branagh barely attempts to maintain the cross-dressing fiction of the plot, having Howard play the role with her hair down for half of the movie, and even bathing nude in a stream in one (invented) scene. As a viewer I had no complaints, but you have to go to great lengths to suspend disbelief enough to imagine that Orlando still thinks Ganymede is a boy.
All in all, a charming production and long, long overdue. Three stars just for bringing it to the screen, and another for trying to be creative, but in all his zeal to experiment with the setting, the dialogue, the casting, and the production of this film, Branagh seems to have forgotten that you really better be careful if you're going to try to be more clever than the Bard. "
Takes some getting-used-to, but enjoyable in the end.
M. Wang | CT United States | 07/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Usually, I prefer my opera or play set in traditional production, with the time frame, costumes and cast as plausible and realistic as possible. This movie is therefore a disappointment to me at the very beginning, with the background set to 19 century Japan and the de Boys brothers played by black actors. Director Kenneth Branagh's leisurely pacing does not help.
Strangely, as the story goes on and the action moves away from the Japanese "court" to the forest, I find myself gradually swayed by the excellent performance of every actor in the movie and begin to truly enjoy some of the best dialogues from Shakespeare.
Branagh really does a good job bringing the best out of his talented cast. It is obvious that they are all having a fun time. But the most attention getting has to be the two leading ladies. Bryce Dallas Howard's lips and Romola Garai's eyes are so lively and exuberant, one wonders how anyone can top their performance. Amazingly, the answer to that question is also right there on the screen. Kevin Kline's Jaques is subtle, true and touching at the same time. Just seeing him read "All the world's a stage..." is worth the price of the DVD already."