Love's Labour's Lost (film)
|Love's Labour's Lost|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kenneth Branagh|
|Produced by||David Barron
|Written by||Kenneth Branagh|
|Based on||Love's Labour's Lost
by William Shakespeare
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|Edited by||Neil Farrell|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures
|31 March 2000|
Love's Labour's Lost is a 2000 adaptation of the comic play of the same name by William Shakespeare, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. It was the first feature film to be made of this lesser-known comedy. Branagh's fourth film of a Shakespeare play (he did not direct the 1995 Othello, although he did play Iago), Love's Labour's Lost was a box-office and critical disappointment.
Branagh's film turns Love's Labour's Lost into a romantic Hollywood musical. Set and costume design evoke the Europe of 1939; the music (classic Broadway songs of the 1930s) and newsreel-style footage are also chief period details. The cast includes Shakespearean veterans such as Timothy Spall, Richard Briers and Geraldine McEwan, alongside Hollywood actors Alicia Silverstone and Matthew Lillard and Broadway and West End stars such as Nathan Lane.
The King of Navarre has vowed to avoid romantic entanglements to spend three years in study and contemplation. His chief courtiers agree to follow him in this vow, though one (Berowne) argues that they will not be able to fulfil this plan.
Berowne's claim is proven correct almost instantly. The Princess of France comes to Navarre to discuss the status of the province of Aquitaine. Though the King does not grant them access to his palace (they are forced to camp outside), each of the courtiers falls in love with one of her handmaidens, and the King falls in love with the Princess herself.
The men attempt to hide their own loves and expose those of their fellows. At the end, after a masked ball in which the pairs of lovers are comically mismatched, all the amours are revealed. However, before the expected nuptial consummation, the women demand that the men prove they are serious by waiting for them.
The comic underplot, in which Costard and others attempt to stage a play (rather like that of the rude mechanicals in A Midsummer Night's Dream, though with more pretensions to learning) is severely curtailed, as is the boasting of the Spaniard, Don Armado.
Some of the characters in the film adaptation are not in the original script. Gaston, Isabelle, Eugene, Jaques, Beatrice, Hyppolyte, Celimene, and Sophie are not mentioned in the play, and they have no lines in the film. This, however, is a standard feature of Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations; his Hamlet contains many non-speaking walk-on roles that are not included in the original play, but are mentioned in the cast list.
- Alessandro Nivola as King Ferdinand of Navarre
- Alicia Silverstone as The Princess of France
- Natascha McElhone as Rosaline
- Kenneth Branagh as Berowne
- Carmen Ejogo as Maria
- Matthew Lillard as Longaville
- Adrian Lester as Dumaine
- Emily Mortimer as Katherine
- Richard Briers as Nathaniel
- Geraldine McEwan as Holofernia (a female version of the male Holofernes in the original play)
- Stefania Rocca as Jaquenetta
- Jimmy Yuill as Dull
- Nathan Lane as Costard
- Timothy Spall as Don Armado
- Tony O'Donnell as Moth
- Daniel Hill as Marcade
- Richard Clifford as Boyet
- Alfred Bell as Gaston
- Daisy Gough as Isabelle
- Graham Hubbard as Eugene
- Paul Moody as Jaques
- Yvonne Reilly as Beatrice
- Iain Stuart Robertson as Hippolyte
- Emma Scott as Celimene
- Amy Tez as Sophie
Branagh became interested in the play during his 1984 season with the Royal Shakespeare Company, when he had played the King of Navarre. From that period, he was familiar with Harley Granville-Barker's famous essay arguing that Love's Labour's Lost could be treated as highly stylised, with the dialogue and action treated with an almost musical sense of rhythm. Branagh took this insight a step further and turned the play into a musical, going much further in his adaptation of the play than he had ever done in his Shakespeare films, and risking the alienation of both audiences and serious critics. This decision also allowed him to revisit the Hollywood film musicals he had loved in his youth.
Branagh cast the film without much regard for singing or dancing ability; as in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You, the film was meant to highlight energy and enthusiasm rather than smooth competence. Of the cast, only Nathan Lane was known primarily for musical work. Preproduction was dominated by rigorous dancing and singing coaching.
Branagh reversed the philosophy he had used with Hamlet (that is, to keep every word of the original), and instead made major cuts in the play's text. The released version retains only about a quarter of Shakespeare's lines; although Branagh managed to include all seventeen of the original speaking roles, some (most notably among the lower-class characters) are cut almost to nothing.
Love's Labour's Lost was not a box office success, mostly due to its limited release. It opened on 2 April 2000 in the United Kingdom, earning £143,649 in its run on 186 screens. It later opened on 11 June 2000 in the United States, playing on two screens and earning only $24,496 on its opening weekend. In its entire US release, Love's Labour's Lost played on fewer than 20 screens and brought in only $284,291 on a budget of $13 million.
Roger Ebert called the film "winsome, charming, sweet and slight", but gave it only two-and-a-half out of four stars, attributing some of the film's flaws to the original material stating, "All is light and winning, and yet somehow empty. It's no excuse that the starting point was probably the weakest of Shakespeare's plays. Love's Labour's Lost is hardly ever performed on the stage and has never been previous filmed, and there is a reason for that: It's not about anything. In its original form, instead of the songs and dances we have dialogue that's like an idle exercise in easy banter for Shakespeare." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times complained that the film "should be fun but isn't... worst of all perhaps is its smug air of pleasure at how clever it thinks it's being."
Some critics complained about the casting. Nathan Lane as Costard received favourable notice, as did Adrian Lester. But the leads (Silverstone and Nivola) were generally panned; Stanley Kauffmann, who had been highly complimentary of Branagh's four-hour film version of Hamlet, called them "inadequate in every way." John Simon complained as well of cutting that left the film's best actors (he mentions McEwan and Briers) with little to do. Kauffmann and Simon both noted that the film's ending, in which newsreel footage shows the men going off to fight in World War II, was grotesquely at odds with the frothy tone of the movie it concluded.
Conversely, the film did receive notably positive reviews from such critics as Variety's Derek Elley, A. O. Scott of The New York Times, and online critic James Berardinelli. Elley described the film as a "luscious labor of love" saying, "anyone with an open mind and a hankering for the simple pleasures of Tinsletown's Golden Age will be rewarded with 90-odd minutes of often silly, frequently charming and always honest entertainment." Scott also gave the film a luke-warm review, calling the "gee-whiz amateurism" part of the movie's charm, stating "Even though Love's Labour's Lost is, in showbiz terms, a turkey stuffed with chestnuts, you wouldn't trade it for a pot of gold."
Berardinelli gave the film three out of four stars, calling it "about 1/3 Shakespeare, 1/3 song-and-dance, and 1/3 ribald slapstick" and describing the balance as "awkward, but the overall result is strangely appealing." He concluded, "Although Love's Labour's Lost does not score the kind of complete success that Branagh has achieved with his other Shakespeare adaptations, it is a welcome addition, not only because it represents the first time the play has been brought to the screen, but because it shows the lengths to which the director is willing to stretch the envelope. Flaws (most of which are minor) aside, Love's Labour's Lost is an enjoyable trifle, especially for those who don't take their Shakespeare too seriously and those who love the old Hollywood musicals as much as Branagh obviously does."
Awards and nominations
|Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|British Independent Film Awards||Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film||Adrian Lester||Nominated|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors||Golden Reel Award – Music – Musical Feature (Foreign & Domestic)||Gerard McCann||Nominated|
- "Love's Labour's Lost". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
- Ebert, Roger (19 June 2000). "Love's Labour's Lost". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
- Elley, Derek (15 February 2000). "Love's Labour's Lost". Variety. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
- Scott, A. O. (9 June 2000). "'What Say You, My Lords? You'd Rather Charleston?' Love's Labour's Lost". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
- Berardinelli, James. "Love's Labour's Lost". ReelViews. Retrieved 19 January 2012.