News

'As You Like It,' premiering Tuesday on HBO

David Bianculli
New York Daily News (MCT)
AS YOU LIKE IT - 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday - HBO

In directing a new version of William Shakespeare's "As You Like It," Kenneth Branagh fosters a giddy sort of freedom in his actors.

Branagh's adaptation (premiering Tuesday night at 9 EDT on HBO), at first, sounds like it's taking liberties just for the sake of taking them. The story is transplanted from the Forest of Arden to 19th-century Japan, and begins with some kabuki theater, a samurai invasion and a sumo contest.

But once the story gets going, and the characters seek solace in the nearby woods, the Japanese elements either fade away or get absorbed nicely, and the actors - and Shakespeare's playful words - take center stage.

Bryce Dallas Howard, the star of "The Village" and "Lady in the Water," is given the best role yet of her young career - and she's nothing short of a revelation here. TV has given us one great Rosalind before this, when Helen Mirren played her in the "Shakespeare Plays" complete cycle in the late-'70s, but Howard is just as much in command of a character that's as complex as it is comic.

Rosalind, after all, is a woman who disguises herself as a man, then feigns portraying a woman. Howard manages it all, without seeming too boyish, too girlish or too artificial. And she does a lot of it in unbroken long takes, as Branagh's directorial style is, for many scenes, the challenging Shakespearean equivalent of a "West Wing"-style "walk-and-talk."

Kevin Kline, as the philosopher Jacques, gets to perform the famous "All the world's a stage" soliloquy in the opposite manner: He sits still, and the camera rotates all around him. But it's still one unbroken take, and it's just as mesmerizing, and pleasantly theatrical.

Other standout performances include Brian Blessed in a dual role, playing the kind Duke and his mercenary brother; Alfred Molina, as the quick-tongued court jester Touchstone; Romola Garai, a delightful discovery as Celia, Rosalind's cousin, and David Oyelowo, the embodiment of pure passion as Orlando.

"As You Like It" is effortlessly entertaining from start to finish - and don't miss the finish. After the closing credits, Howard delivers Rosalind's epilogue while wandering back to her film-set trailer - and those last words you hear, after she shuts the door on her final, unbroken speech, are Branagh, saying, "And ... cut!"

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Fleetwood Dissects the European Mindset in His Moody, Disturbing Thriller, 'A Young Fair God'

Hugh Fleetwood's difficult though absorbing A Young Fair God offers readers a look into the age-old world views that have established and perpetuated cultural rank and the social attitudes that continue to divide us wherever we may reside in the world.

Music

Art Feynman Creates Refreshing Worldbeat Pop on 'Half Price at 3:30'

On Half Price at 3:30, Art Feynman again proves himself adept at building colorful worlds from unexpected and well-placed aural flourishes. He's all nuance, carefully mining aural crevices left untapped or unnoticed.

Music

The Beths Are Sharp As Ever on 'Jump Rope Gazers'

New Zealand power-poppers the Beths return with a sophomore album that makes even the most senior indie-rock acts feel rudimentary by comparison.

Music

The Jayhawks Offer Us Some 'XOXO'

The Jayhawks offer 12-plus songs on XOXO to help listeners who may be alone and scared by reminding us that we are all alone together.

Music

Steve McDonald Remembers the Earliest Days of Redd Kross

Steve McDonald talks about the year that produced the first Redd Kross EP, an early eighth-grade graduation show with a then-unknown Black Flag, and a punk scene that welcomed and defined him.

Film

Nazis, Nostalgia, and Critique in Taika Waititi's 'Jojo Rabbit'

Arriving amidst the exhaustion of the past (21st century cultural stagnation), Waititi locates a new potential object for the nostalgic gaze with Jojo Rabbit: unpleasant and traumatic events themselves.

Television

Why I Did Not Watch 'Hamilton' on Disney+

Just as Disney's Frozen appeared to deliver a message of 21st century girl power, Hamilton hypnotizes audiences with its rhyming hymn to American exceptionalism.

Music

LA Popsters Paper Jackets Deliver a Message We Should Embrace (premiere + interview)

Two days before releasing their second album, LA-based pop-rock sextet Paper Jackets present a seemingly prescient music video that finds a way to ease your pain during these hard times.

Books

'Dancing After TEN' Graphic Memoir Will Move You

Art dances with loss in the moving double-memoir by comics artists Vivian Chong and Georgia Webber, Dancing After TEN.

Music

Punk Rock's WiiRMZ Rage at the Dying of the Light on 'Faster Cheaper'

The eight songs on WiiRMZ's Faster Cheaper are like a good sock to the jaw, bone-rattling, and disorienting in their potency.

Music

Chris Stamey Paints in "A Brand-New Shade of Blue" (premiere + interview)

Chris Stamey adds more new songs for the 20th century with his latest album, finished while he was in quarantine. The material comes from an especially prolific 2019. "It's like flying a kite and also being the kite. It's a euphoric time," he says.

Music

Willie Nelson Surveys His World on 'First Rose of Spring'

Country legend Willie Nelson employs his experience on a strong set of songs to take a wide look around him.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.