Stars: Alfred Bell, Richard Briers, Richard Clifford, Carmen Ejogo, Daisy Gough
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Musical
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 93 minutes
Having taken Shakespeare at his word on Hamlet (i.e., not cutting a single syllable out of a very long play), Kenneth Branagh selects a more radical approach with Love's Labour's Lost. Here the prolific director-star weeds out much of the play's dialogue and adds songs and dances of a decidedly modern bent. The King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola, Nicolas Cage's wacko brother in Face/Off) and his three comrades (Branagh, Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester) take a vow: no womanly distractions while they pursue their studies. Ah, but at that very moment, floating down a magical studio-built river, is the queen of France (Alicia Silverstone), accompanied by three ladies-in-waiting. You do the math. Branagh has set the tale on the eve of the Second World War, which allows for the inclusion of vintage pop songs, including "Cheek to Cheek," "The Way You Look Tonight," and a rousing chorus of "There's No Business Like Show Business," led by--who else?--Nathan Lane. The fact that most of the cast members are not accomplished song-and-dance folk is clearly meant to charm, but the results are spotty at best. Perhaps the most dynamic performer is Natascha McElhone (memorable from Ronin), whose aristocratic bearing and bottomless eyes lend a gravity to the material that is otherwise absent from Branagh's twinkly staging. The play contains some of Shakespeare's loveliest paeans to the language of love, yet Branagh seems to be in a hurry to juice everything up lest the audience lose interest. The labor shows. --Robert Horton
From women's eyes this doctrine I derive: They are the ground, the books, the academes, from whence doth spring the true Promethean fire. O, we have made a vow to study, lords, and in that vow we have forsworn our books; For when would you, my liege, or you, or you in leaden contemplation have found out such fiery numbers as the prompting eyes of beauty's tutors have enriched you with? Other slow arts entirely keep the brain, and therefore, finding barren practisers, scarce show a harvest of their heavy toil; But love, first learned in a lady's eyes, lives not alone immured in the brain but with the motion of all elements courses as swift as thought in every power and gives to every power a double power, above their functions and their offices. It adds a precious seeing to the eye: A lover's eyes will gaze an eagle blind. A lover's ear will hear the lowest sound. Love's feeling is more soft and sensible than are the tender horns of cockled snails. Love's tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste, for valour, is not Love a Hercules, still climbing trees in the Hesperides? Subtle as Sphinx, as sweet and musical as bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair. And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods make heaven drowsy with the harmony. Heaven. I'm in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak...
If my observation, which very seldom lies by the heart's still rhetoric disclosed with eyes, deceived me not now, Navarre is infected.
With that which we lovers entitle affected.
His face's own margin did quote such amazes that all eyes saw his eyes enchanted with gazes. I'll give you Aquitaine, and all that is his, an you give him for my sake but one loving kiss.
Come, to our pavilion. Boyet is disposed.
But to speak that in words which his eyes hath disclosed. I only have made a mouth of his eye by adding a tongue which I know will not lie.
Thou art an old love-monger, and speakest skilfully.
Do you hear, my mad wenches?
What then, do you see?
Ay,^Åour way to be gone.
You are too hard for me.