Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Matthew Lillard.
Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000)
Love’s Labour’s Lost is a film adaptation of the Shakespeare play and is written and directed by Kenneth Branagh. Prior to Love’s Labour’s Lost, Branagh had also written and directed adaptations of Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), and Hamlet (1996), making Love’s Labour’s Lost his fourth Shakespeare adaptation. One would assume that would mean that this film would be fantastic, one would assume…
Love’s Labour’s Lost is about King Ferdinand of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola, Face/Off, Jurassic Park III, American Hustle) who has made a scholarly pact to study for three years and stay away from any romantic entanglements, along with barely sleeping, fasting once a week and other ludicrous things. His three closest men, Berowne (Kenneth Branagh, who was also the main star in the three Shakespeare adaptions mentioned, as well as films like Othello, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), Dumaine (Adrian Lester) and Longaville (Matthew Lillard) also swear to this oath, though Berowne protests as he doesn’t think there is any way they could keep their promise. Shortly after, The Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) arrives, along with her handmaidens Rosaline (Natascha McElhone), Maria (Carmen Ejogo, Alex Cross, The Purge: Anarchy, Selma), and Katherine (Emily Mortimer, Scream 3), and the obvious happens: they all fall in love and have to try to stave off breaking their oath.
Usually I have this problem where I enjoy most movies I watch too much and find it hard to come up with a lot of critiques. This is not one of those times. Love’s Labour’s Lost is a complete mess of a film. The acting is decent, but more entertainingly fun in a goofy borderline bad way – in fact most of the movie has that quality. Branagh’s especially stands out as he seems to be trying to play a character along the same age as the other three main men and he does not pull it off, especially with his incredibly obvious hairstyle and moustache. The directing is decent, but not not as good as you’d expect from a director of Branagh’s talent. The biggest problem with this movie, though, has to be the musical aspect to it. The whole film is this odd goofy mess, as going between Shakespearean dialogue to poppy goofy musical numbers does not work well. It makes the film feel incredibly disjointed, like it’s two different kind of films unfortunately mushed into one. It doesn’t help that occasionally we get these weird 30’s black and white parody news and propaganda pieces throughout, making it feel even more incoherent.
But there are a few decent bits throughout. Sure it’s weird and goofy, but the acting is good for the most. Timothy Spall (The Last Samurai) as Don Armado is a huge standout and probably my favorite part of the film. Also wonderful is Nathan Lane (The Lion King) who plays the weird comedian character in the film Costard. As good as he is in terms of acting, I absolutely hated his character. It’s a fun character and he plays it impeccably, but it feels so annoying within the confines of a movie like this. An added bonus is the fact that whenever Branagh speaks it is absolute music to the ears; he feels born to spout Shakespearean lines.
Lillard again plays his role in a weird and goofy way and I can’t fault him for that. I don’t think it’s particularly bad acting, it just feels slightly all over the place. He goes from happy and smiling to his weird goofy facial expressions for reasons I didn’t always understand. It’s always nice to see him in the movie, even though he’s barely in it outside of three prominent scenes, which unfortunately makes it slightly difficult to add any more to this bit.
Verdict: Better Left Buried
All in all I can’t really recommend this movie. It’s weird and quirky, not in the right ways either, with some pretty lame musical numbers and a horribly disjointed feel. The acting isn’t all that amazing aside from Spall and Lane, although Branagh is always a beauty to listen to. Adding the fact that this article is about Lillard, I also can’t really recommend it much as he’s not in the film as much as one would hope, although it was kind of fun to see him sing. If I’m being honest, I kind of wish I didn’t dig this one up.
Come back tomorrow when James Earl Jones pays Lillard and his poker buddies a visit!