Kim and I were thrilled to sit down to a Tivo'd recording of HBO's As You Like It last Friday night. We were loaded up with chocolate, and despite having my neighbor's dog barking manically through the duration of our viewing session, we were excited to get our Shakespeare fix.
The fact that it's since taken me five whole days to report back on the production shows just how entirely "eh" we felt about the whole thing. Relocating the story to 19th century Japan was a very promising idea, but since much of the movie was set in the gorgeous but slightly generic "Forest of Arden," (and since most of the cast weren't of Asian descent), it seemed kind of pointless. That, and watching a skinny Orlando whoop the ass of a sumo wrestler who was built like a Mack truck put our suspension-of-disbelief skills to the limit.
Speaking of Orlando, his portrayer (David Oyelowo), managed to keep us intrigued, but it was Bryce Dallas Howard (Rosalind) who really carried this entire movie. Her accent was spot on, her delivery was perfectly executed and she was generally a stunning visage to behold. Contrast that with the strangely bland performance of Kevin Kline. He managed to turn the play's most famous monologue into a perfect opportunity for a bathroom break, and whenever he spoke, Kim and I both started nodding off. Perhaps it was his OVer, EMPHasis of EVery SYLLable. Sorry Kevin, I normally love you but I've got to give you a thumbs' down as the forlorn Jaques.
The final scene's effluvium of music and dancing and gaiety seemed like a tepid rip-off of 1993's Much Ado About Nothing finale (which ranks as one of our favorite moments in Shakespeare adaptation history..."Sigh no more, ladies!!!!!"). Nevertheless, Kenneth Branagh, we adore you for continuing to treat modern audiences to your creative spins on the Bard. When all the world is your stage, we're happy to watch.