Love's Labour's Lost

"Good"

Love's Labour's Lost Review


For a long time I've had a theory that the musical genre couldn't survive the cynicism of modern audiences except as a ironic in-joke, like the "South Park" movie or as a post-modern homage, like Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You."

I couldn't have been more wrong -- and leave it to Kenneth Branagh, a writer-director-actor who has made his name revitalizing old (old, old!) school entertainment -- to prove it by bringing back the kind of weightless musical delight that carried Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to stardom.

For his new adaptation of Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost," Branagh has re-imagined the buoyant romantic comedy as a classy, corny, 1930s movie musical, complete with uplifting dance numbers and a catalog of favorite big band ditties sung with great enthusiasm (if not great skill) by a quality cast of cheerful actors clearly having the time of their lives.

The plot revolves around the capricious young king of Navaree (Alessandro Nivola, "Mansfield Park") and three of his happy-go-lucky lords (Branagh, Matthew Lillard and Adrian Lester) who take an oath to cloister themselves from all feminine distraction for three years of pure academic betterment.

Of course, unbeknownst to them a beautiful, effervescent princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her three lovely ladies in waiting (Natascha McElhone, Carmen Ejogo and Emily Mortimer) are about to arrive on a diplomatic business and wreak love-at-first-sight havoc on the gentlemen's pact.

Branagh has dropped the story into pre-World War II Europe, cleverly setting the stage with mock royal-watching newsreel footage that substitutes for The Bard's dialogue at times in order to more quickly advance the plot -- what there is of it. The development of the love stories are often left to be presumed from musical numbers because of time constraints.

But such is the nature of the genre, and this sacrifice of character depth is worth it, really. Branagh and his boys get off to a bumpy start with a couple numbers that are all-too-obviously pre-recorded and accompanied by pretty clumsy dancing, but once "LLL" finds its melodic groove, it's nothing less than irresistibly enthusiastic merriment.

Unabashedly old-fashioned in his methods, Branagh encourages stylized acting and singing (Nivola punches a finger in the air for emphasis while belting out a tune) and pauses for wonderfully silly set pieces featuring Timothy Spall ("Topsy-Turvy") hamming it up as Don Armando, a lisping royal hanger-on, and Nathan Lane as Costard, the king's Vaudevillian jester.

While Nivola, Branagh and McElhone ("Ronin") are stand-outs for managing to portray strong romantic emotions amidst all the twinkle-toeing, the other primary players are an uneven bunch. Many of them are given too little screen time to define their characters (the women do little more than titter and giggle). Some are questionably cast in the first place, like teen-freak character actor Lillard ("SLC Punk!") and Silverstone, who, suffice to say, gets by largely on her near-supernatural cuteness.

Irregardless, "LLL" is just a joy to watch and Shakespeare's text lends itself well to the song-and-dance setting. This isn't thinking people's Shakespeare, after all. It's purely a crowd-pleaser, and Branagh has no delusions about making it anything more -- which is precisely why he chose in the first place to turn it into a light-hearted musical featuring upbeat tunes like Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out Of You" and Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek."

He gives the film a distinctively period look too, lifting MGM's musical photography style, shooting outdoor scenes on soundstages, dressing the men in handsome tails and bow ties, and the women in sumptuous, Technicolor gowns.

The movie is irrefutably imperfect. It barely pays lip service to a third-act switcheroo cooked up by the princess and occasionally it suffers from all the missing chunks of story left on the editing room floor. Sometimes it's even a bit confusing: One masked dance number comes across like a fantasy sequence and it's two scenes later before you'll realize it was supposed to be real.But the fact remains that no one has made a musical like this in more than 50 years, and Branagh pulls it off beautifully. That it's a Shakespeare play to boot just feels like a bonus.



Love's Labour's Lost

Facts and Figures

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Friday 31st March 2000

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 32

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as The King (Ferdinand), as Rosaline, as Rosaline, as Berowne, as Sir Nathaniel, as Armado, Jimmy Yuill as Constable Dull, as Maria, as Dumaine

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.