Theme Song: "Sigh
no more, ladies, sigh no more. Men were deceivers ever. One foot
in sea and one on shore, to one thing constant never. Then sigh
not so but let them go and be you blithe and bonny, converting
all your sounds of woe into hey nonny nonny."
Beatrice Quote: "I had rather hear my dog
bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me."
The basic story involves the upcoming marriage
of Count Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and the lovely Hero (Kate
Beckinsale), and the behind the scenes attempts, to pass the time,
to create a love match between a man and woman at odds with each
other, who are confirmed singles, Benedick and Beatrice, (played
by then real life husband & wife, Branagh & Thompson.)
To complicate all matters, the bitter Don John (Kenau Reeves),
brother of Don Pedro of Arragon (Denzel Washington), plans to
ruin the wedding plans and stop the wedding of Claudio and Hero,
by falsely accusing Hero of being unfaithful to her husband-to-be,
through a misleading scheme, that nearly works. However, at the
end of the story, everything turns out fine, making the whole
incident "much ado about nothing."
Based on William Shakespeare's play, Kenneth Branagh wrote and
directed this entertaining comedy / romance screenplay. Branagh
was ideally suited to adapt the play, star in, and direct this
movie. Both the humorous and dramatic moments
in this screenplay make the film a classic, as they are well written,
well directed and well acted by a stellar cast.
He added the hysterical bit with his character
and the lawn chair, while eavesdropping what his friends are saying
about Beatrice's feelings for him, which is one of my favorite
sequences of scenes.
The dramatic moments are also powerful, such
as when Claudio accuses Hero of infidelity at the wedding ceremony,
causing major havoc to all concerned. Equally gripping is the
sequence of scenes where Beatrice convinces Benedick to challenge
Claudio to a duel.
Of the all star cast, Branagh, Thompson, and
Washington particularly distinguish themselves. Their fluid use
of Shakespeare's language renders it both poetic and comprehensible
to modern ears.
Branagh & Thompson are great together as
warring couple, Benedick and Beatrice, adding much to the plot
line and enjoyment of the movie.
Denzel Washington plays Don Pedro of Aragon,
who is the head military leader of all the soldiers, (including
Claudio, & Benedick), who had all come to enjoy the hospitality
of their friend, the Governor of Messina, played well by Richard
Briers. The beginning of the movie has them coming back from a
campaign for a visit.
Richard Briers excels as Hero's father, Seigneur
Leonato, the Governor of Messina, who is put through the ringer
by the false accusations made against his lovely daughter.
Some people feel that casting missed its mark, concerning Keanu
Reeves (Don Juan) and Michael Keaton (Constable Dogberry), who
seem to many oddly not quite right for their roles, being two
very modern actors, who seem out of place in the period setting.
I personally thought that Reeves was fine as the bitter, full
of hate, vengeful brother of Don Pedro, which was a shallow, one
note character anyway. Michael Keaton's performance was over the
top, perhaps needing stronger direction, but was his comical self,
true to form.
Branagh impressed audiences around the world
when he performed the same tasks on Shakespeare's "Henry
V" (1989). He received Oscar nominations for Best Picture
and Best Director, causing some critics to proclaim him the modern
heir to the late Sir Lawrence Olivier's illustrious dramatic crown.
The film's beautiful photography, which presents
the past era in an eye pleasing, gold-tinged light is a delight
for the viewer. Director of Photography Roger Lanser delivered
the ripe, sumptuous visuals.
The film was beautifully shot on location in Italy, in and around
the 14th century Villa Vignamaggio.