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Is This A Glock I See Before Me? Shakespearian Modernizations: The Good, The Bad and The Coriolanus

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | February 15, 2011 | Comments ()


Here are some recent examples of modernizations. . . only one of which is truly broken.

Hamlet (2000): This production grew on me with multiple viewings. I objected, at the time of its release, to the ubiquitous Julia Stiles who was great in Ten Things I Hate About You but rather dull when it came to speaking Shakespeare's actual verse. But Bill Murray kills as Polonious and Sam Shepard is truly the face of every haunting father figure you want to impress. The director did some nice modernization work by having Hawke's Hamlet be a filmmaker. Many of his soliloquies are films Hawke replays. As is "The Mousetrap." It rather works.
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Richard III (1995): This fantastic production with a killer cast (Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr. and Kristen Scott Thomas) reimagines Post War of the Roses Richard as a 1930's fascist dictator. The man cries, "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" because his jeep is stuck in the mud. Brilliant.
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Romeo + Juliet (1996): Perhaps the most well-known of the modernizations, Luhrmann's film caught some flack for the pop soundtrack and MTV cross-promotion. DiCaprio's performance is gripping, however, and it's a cute touch to name the weapons DAGGER 9mm and RAPIER 9mm. Luhrmann also cut more text than most directors, relying on visuals to convey meaning.
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Love's Labour's Lost (2000): This is where Kenneth Brannaugh, after a wonderful streak of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet took his first, huge misstep. Love's Labour's Lost is not Shakespeare's strongest plot at the best of times, and it crumples in this mess of a modernization that is set in the 1940's. Oh and it's a musical. Berlin and Gershwin are dragged into the fray. The Good? Adrian Lester, accomplished stage actor and singer. He makes both the verse and the dancing seem effortless. The Bad? Matthew Lillard who, like Keanu before him, is woefully miscast. The Ugly? Poor, poor Alicia Silverstone who can neither dance, nor sing, nor speak the verse. She's a triple non-threat and it's painful to watch.
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Joanna Robinson is relieved to have side-stepped talking about the non-verse modernizations because she would have had to reveal her love for Get Over It starring Ben Foster, Kirsten Dunst, Mila Kunis and Sisqo (of Thong Song fame). Hermiaaaaaaaaaaa, I'll make you love me.



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