Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) — Shakespeare in the 1930s

“Thou shalt know her, fellow, by the rest that have no heads.”

Andie’s rating: I love Shakespeare, I love musicals, I love the fashions of the late ’30s, what more could I ask for in a movie?

Andie’s review: Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known comedies. It is the tale of four men, The King of England and his three friends, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville, who all swear to give up women for three years in order to stay in the King’s court and become more learned and sophisticated.

The very day they agree to this, they meet four women, The Princess of France and her three friends, Rosaline, Katherine, and Maria, and fall madly in love. The women know of the mens’ oath, however, and merely taunt them. When the men finally give up their oath, the women play a little hard-to-get, but eventually everyone gets together. In the play, the women must leave because of the death of the King of France (the princess’ father) and so we don’t really know when they will see their men again. In the movie, however, they have a nice montage sequence and we see them reunited.

Besides the fact that Shakespeare is THE MAN and everything he wrote is fantastic, this movie is wonderful because the action is set during the beginning of WWII and it is made into a musical. Instead of simply having the actors say every line Shakespeare wrote, Branagh eliminated some of the dialogue in places and substituted a song of the era that was appropriate. So we get to hear great songs such as “Let’s Face the Music (and Dance),” “There’s No Business like Show Business,” and “I have a Crush on You.” I can’t even say how wonderfully these songs fit into this play and really liven up the action. The dance sequences are great, particularly a sort of raunchy Cabaret-like number to “Let’s Face the Music.” The music adds so much to this already outstandingly humorous play.

Something that is also nice is that at various points throughout the film, we are shown a Citizen Kane-like newsreel to “update the world on the happenings of the King of England and the Princess of France.” What it is actually there for is to bring the audience up to speed on the action because sometimes Shakespearean language is a little hard to follow. It’s nice because now everybody knows what’s going on without having to look stupid and ask someone.

The players are great as well, particularly Kenneth Branagh as Berowne and Nathan Lane in a small part as Costard the court comedian. I was also quite impressed by Matthew Lilliard as Longaville. Not because he was the best actor of the bunch, but because I can’t look at him without hearing “It’s a scream baby!” as spittle flies from his mouth. So it was pretty cool to hear him sing and see him dance and speak in Shakespearean language. Overall, this is a charming flick and I would rank it right at the top of the current updates of Shakespeare. If you like Shakespeare’s work at all (which everyone should because it’s great) definitely go rent this.

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