LONDON–The Bard goes kitchen sink in Christine Edzard’s “As You Like It,” an updated version of the Shakespeare favorite that sacrifices sylvan whimsy for social edge. British low-budgeter, mostly shot on drab exteriors, will be limited to literary students and the very dedicated, given careful nursing. Pic had its world preem over the weekend at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
Fourth feature of Edzard and producer husband Richard Goodwin was shot in five weeks (after a month’s rehearsals) at the couple’s south-London Sands Films studio, home of their earlier historico frescoes, “Little Dorrit” and “The Fool.”
Previous version of the play was the 1936 Laurence Olivier/Elisabeth Bergner-starrer, shot in Britain by Paul Czinner with so-so results. Edzard’s re-try is fuller and more faithful on text.
It is also longer on running time, and opts for modern dress and settings.
Best known for its “all the world’s a stage” soliloquy, the play would seem to adapt well to modernization. The bad duke’s castle becomes a classically pillored mansion of business wealth and power; the Forest of Arden becomes an urban wasteland with the exiled duke and his followers homeless dropouts. Pic starts uneasily in the first setting, not helped by Edzard’s unadventurous camera style, clumsy cutting and variable sound quality. Things pick up in the wasteland, as the love story between Rosalind (Emma Croft, in boy’s clothes) and Orlando (Andrew Tiernan) gathers steam.
But by not supplying any bridging material, Edzard makes the pic a tough ride for the unconverted.
Talk of “doublet and hose” and “the forest” jars when characters are walking around in jeans and eating fish-and-chips. Performances are variable. Croft comes into her own halfway as the spunky Rosalind. Tiernan is stronger as the banker-type Oliver than the weedy, long-haired Orlando. James Fox is OK, though subdued, as Jaques; Don Henderson mild as the two dukes; and TV comic Griff Rhys-Jones often difficult to decipher as Touchstone.