As You Like It
His forthcoming remake of Anthony Shaffer/Joseph L Mankewicz’s Sleuth (this time adapted by Harold Pinter) may put his career back on track, but Kenneth Branagh’s once golden touch with the Bard turns leaden with As You Like It.
With great pretentiousness and little point, the writer/director has moved the action from the forest of Arden to 19th-century Japan, presumably to demonstrate that he can depict sumo wrestling and ninja-attacks with the same languid, dull style as the traditional mistaken-identity comedy.
From this vaguely sketched world of pagodas and geishas, the usurped Duke (Brian Blessed) escapes with a motley crew of second-rate stars in tow, including Rosalind (Bryce Dallas Howard), Celia (Romola Garai), Oliver (Adrian Lester), Jacques (Kevin Kline), Touchstone (Alfred Molina) and ancient retainer Adam (Richard Briers). By the time the rogue Duke (also played by Blessed) finally gets his comeuppance, the gratingly mannered performances and air of forced levity are likely to put even the most devoted admirers of Shakespeare into deep sleep.
There’s been a steep decrease in the ideas and quality in Branagh’s adaptations, from his sharp Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing, a middling Hamlet and his gauche update of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Hopefully the nadir of his career, this As You Like It is performed as surely no one but the director himself likes it.
General release from Fri 21 Sep.