As You Like It

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Review byMatthew Turner19/09/2007

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

The cast do their best, but even Branagh's renowned Shakespeare-directing skills can't save As You Like It, which is, arguably, one of the Bard's least interesting plays.

What's it all about?
Set for some reason in 1880s Japan, As You Like It opens with evil Frederick (Brian Blessed, wearing black) overthrowing his good brother Senior (Blessed again, wearing white) and banishing his entire court to the forest. Horrified at being split up, their daughters (Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind and Romola Garai as Celia) disguise themselves as a man and his sister and join their fellow exiles.

Cross-dressing shenanigans quickly ensue as Rosalind falls for the good-hearted Orlando (David Oyelowo), who resents his older brother Oliver (Adrian Lester) for withholding his inheritance. Meanwhile, various sub-plots unfold, including the court jester (Alfred Molina) and a randy goatherd (Janet McTeer), a lovestruck shepherd (Alex Wyndham) trying to woo the sarcastic Phoebe (Jade Jeffries), and Orlando's family servant (Richard Briers), who overhears a plot against his master's life.

The Good
The performances are something of a mixed bag: Oyelowo gives the film's best performance as Orlando and Howard is lovely as Rosalind, even if her so-called boy disguise isn't really fooling anyone.

Ironically, it's the smaller details of the film that are the most memorable, such as Good Blessed versus Bad Blessed (the ninja attack at the beginning is impressive, if not exactly Shakespearean) and Alfred Molina's Eraserhead-inspired hairdo.

The Bad
Kevin Kline seems to be in a different film as the philosophising Jacques and Romola Garai is actually painful to watch as Celia, reduced to tediously unfunny slapstick and badly directed mugging.

Unfortunately, the film is a rambling mess from beginning to end. The Japanese setting adds nothing (except ninjas), the plot is extremely dull in places and the production looks extremely cheap, as if Branagh just decided to make a film in the woods with his mates, on a whim.

Worth seeing?
In short, As You Like It is something of a disappointment, thanks to a boring, flabby script and some uneven performances.

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Content updated: 20/07/2019 08:52

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