Love's Labour's Lost

As if to prove that light romantic comedy can be just as difficult to stage as Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh fails at both, simultaneously. The king of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) has decreed that he and his three lords (Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester and Branagh) shall foreswear women and devote the next three years to their studies, completely forgetting...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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As if to prove that light romantic comedy can be just as difficult to stage as Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh fails at both, simultaneously. The king of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) has decreed that he and his three lords (Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester and Branagh) shall

foreswear women and devote the next three years to their studies, completely forgetting the impending visit of the comely Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her three lovely ladies (Natascha McElhone, Carmen Ejogo and Emily Mortimer). When they arrive, the king insists they set up camp

outside the kingdom walls, even though it's clearly love at first sight all around. Surreptitious courting follows, along with misdirected missives, masked-ball switcheroos and way too much vaudeville shtick from Nathan Lane, playing the king's clown. Love's Labour's Lost hasn't dated well;

quibbles, proverbs and wordplay that once had 'em rolling in the aisles of the Globe left them scratching their heads a century later. So Branagh hit upon the bright idea of presenting this inaccessible comedy as an Astaire and Rogers-style musical romance; he tosses half the play and inserts

dance numbers and overly familiar tunes from the Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Gershwin songbooks. But before you scream Kiss Me, Kate, it should be mentioned that Branagh hasn't updated any of the dialogue, so it happens that a couplet is followed by the slangy lyrics of "I'd Rather

Charleston." It's a jarring combination that leads to the spectacle of Branagh crooning while a panicked Silverstone rushes her way through 17th century dialogue as though she has somewhere else to be. The lack of written stage direction has always granted great artistic license to directors bold

enough to brave LLL, but in Branagh's case, that license should be revoked. Pronto.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: As if to prove that light romantic comedy can be just as difficult to stage as Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh fails at both, simultaneously. The king of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) has decreed that he and his three lords (Matthew Lillard, Adrian Lester and B… (more)

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