First film review on the blog! Tremendous excitement! Unfortunately, this film is so not worth all of the excitement. Part of The Complete Works of Shakespeare series put out by the BBC in the 1980s, these are the film editions that my high school English teachers would often make us watch. And during the slightly more than two hours this film ate up of my life, I’m pretty sure I had a high school flashback or two. But all is not lost, despite its tendency to bore me thoroughly, there are several moments worth mocking. So let’s move on shall we?
First, the casting.
No one in this film is worth writing home about. Also I’m desperately hoping that the two gents who played Proteus and Valentine were wearing wigs because I don’t want to think about what they looked like with that hair in anything other than tights and puffy shirts. Sadly, these are not the only two men with horrifically bad hair. Poor Speed, who is played by a teenager whose voice occasionally tends towards pubescent squeakiness, has a chin-length bob and bangs. Sad, sad boy.
Of course, bad hair is not limited to just the guys.
Julia appears to have been attacked by a crimping iron and her hair reaches epic levels of fluffiness as it stretches towards the base of her spine. Silvia is much better looking than the rest of her cohorts but sadly, Google has failed to provide me with a picture of her so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Moving on to the actual film, my scrawled notes that I took while watching reveal a lot of moments where I wondered what exactly the director was thinking. There is a lot of recorder and lute music in this flick and some very lame songs that do very little for me. Period instruments they might be, but awe inspiring they are not. There are also some weird insert shots of mute characters, the most creepy of which are two children wearing gold body paint (even their hair has been painted) dressed up like cherubs that hang out in the courtyard every time Silvia is around. Speaking of the weirdness that surrounds Silvia, for the first three acts, any time she walks into the courtyard, two guys toss their capes on the ground and the creepy cherubs toss flower petals into the air as she walks across the capes. It’s odd.
Sadly, the few soliloquies in the play are not given the best treatment either. The actors never seem capable of deciding whether they’re breaking the fourth wall or not and so are forever dancing around looking directly in the camera but getting awfully close. The only speeches I really enjoyed were from Launce about his dog as he was actually funny and the dog was cute.
Mostly the actors tend towards overacting, that often had me laughing at its ludicrousness. Julia spends almost all of her scenes from Act III on crying, to the point where I was breaking up every time she did. And the entire fifth act had me cracking up. Which was really not the intent based on all of the serious faces and the crying. Oh man, Proteus crying. There are no words. But perhaps the best moment where the film goes over the top is in the scene right after Proteus has seen Silvia for the first time and is swiftly falling out of love with Julia and into love with Silvia. Left alone on the set, there are actual thundercracks as the actor attempts to convey with his face the change that is going on. And the thunderstorm continues throughout the entire speech. You know, in case you couldn’t tell that the character is going through a major change we’ll convey it with dramatic weather!!!
However, my biggest gripe with this play is the lack of convincingness with the cross-dressing. While every other dude in the film is wearing tights, puffy shirts, and often toss in a cape to really complete the look, when Julia turns herself into Sebastian, she wears those hideous pants that are baggy from hip to knee and then tight over the calves and a jacket buttoned up practically to her neck. Never mind the poor job they do of sticking all of her hair under a hat. It takes a tremendous suspension of disbelief to wonder why no one is asking who the girl in trousers is.
You could hope that this play ends on a high note, but instead there is a group hug between the four primary characters and then more awkward lute and recorder music with singing as everyone goes in a procession off-camera. Sigh.
And with that, we end all of our time with Two Gentlemen of Verona. Sunday will bring our first encounter with Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor.