LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Alicia
Silverstone, Nathan Lane,
Alessandro Nivola, Natascha
McElhone, Adrian Lester, &
Runtime: 95 minutes
Distributor: Miramax Films/Disney
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Executive Producer: Bob Weinstein, Harvey
Weinstein, Guy East, Alexis
Lloyd, & Nigel Sinclair
Producer: David Barron & Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Kenneth Branagh & William
Address Comments To:Bob & Harvey Weinstein, Co-Chairmen
Tribeca Film Center
375 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013-2338
Shakespeare’s play LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST is about the King of Navarre who makes his three friends, and the whole royal court, sign an oath to avoid women for three years while they study science and philosophy. The King forgets, however, that the Princess of France is coming to discuss the terms of their future marriage. Accompanying the Princess will be three handmaidens, a fact that pricks the interest of his three friends.
The King and his friends decide that it would not break their vows if they officially met the women outside the gates of the court, and if the Princess and her maidens camped outside in royal tents. Back at the court, however, the men can’t get their minds off the women, which truly breaks their vows. One of the King’s friends, a witty fellow named Berowne played by Branagh, convinces them that relationships with the female gender are the essence of life and happiness. The impetuous guys decide to woo the women secretly, but the gals have other tricks up their sleeves.
There are many musical numbers in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. Consequently, most of the numbers are extremely short, with only some perfunctory dancing. Thus, while it’s nice to hear great music from people like Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin and Oscar Hammerstein, fewer and longer musical numbers, preferably with more dancing, would have made more sense and been more enjoyable. Part of the problem here is that, unlike most traditional Hollywood musicals, this movie doesn’t give viewers much of a chance to focus on one or two of the couples. Thus, even in the famous movie musical ON THE TOWN (1951) with Gene Kelly, where two sailors woo one woman and a third woman woos a third sailor, there’s no question that the main story of the movie is about one sailor’s relationship with one girl, the winner of the Miss Turnstiles Contest.
LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST has some other problems besides this one.
First of all, the play is one of William Shakespeare’s simpler ones and isn’t as engaging as his best comedies, such as A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, THE TEMPEST or AS YOU LIKE IT. Also, the director, Kenneth Branagh (HAMLET), inserts a couple lewd sexual gestures when one of the men pines for his lover and an erotic dance number when the men and the women dress up in masks to fool one another. This latter element makes no sense at all, because, despite the masks, it is perfectly clear who is whom, which means that the men are knowingly switching partners. Finally, when one character sings, “I get no kick from cocaine,” Cole Porter’s infamous lyric from “I Get a Kick out of You,” another character sitting nearby with his back turned kicks up some cocaine dust when he sneezes.
LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST is pretty to look at, however. There’s also the music of Shakespeare’s verse and the phrasing of America’s past musical masters to enjoy, along with a little fancy footwork. Some viewers may even, in fact, find it quite diverting.
There are too many musical numbers in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. Most of the numbers are extremely short, with only some perfunctory dancing. While it’s nice to hear great music from people like Cole Porter and Oscar Hammerstein, fewer and longer musical numbers, preferably with more dancing, would have been more enjoyable. Also, Branagh inserts a couple lewd sexual gestures, an erotic dance number and a joke about using cocaine