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Post Cymbeline


Cymbeline (formerly Anarchy and then Cymbeline, again) is a 2014 American crime tragedy film based on the play Cymbeline by William Shakespeare. The film is directed by Michael Almereyda and stars Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich and John Leguizamo.

Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:49 pm
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Post Re: Cymbeline
Cymbeline, one of the Bard's later, more problematic, and most seldom performed plays, is rendered for the screen in an action-oriented, modern-day version by director Michael Almereyda, who 15 years ago imagined Hamlet as a melancholy corporate heir pondering "to be or not to be" in a video store. In this new film, the original play's British king becomes the hard-edged leader (Ed Harris) of an outlaw motorcycle gang, and the Roman powers to whom he ceases paying tribute at the behest of his scheming second wife (Milla Jovovich) are transformed into a police force. Complicated by this burgeoning war is his beautiful daughter Imogen's (Dakota Johnson) Romeo and Juliet-style romance with an orphan (Penn Badgley) raised in court or, in this case, within the fold of the criminal organization.

This is a stylish, swiftly paced, and at times sexy film buoyed by several interesting and rewarding casting choices. Few actors are as intimidating and magisterial as Harris, and Jovovich brings a voracious intensity and sensuality to the role of his devious and murderous queen. Ethan Hawke, previously Almereyda's Hamlet, is a playful and wily presence as minor antagonist Iachimo, a clever and treacherous gambler, and Johnson is close to astounding—exuding pure and complicated yearning—as the put-upon heroine Imogen. Only Badgley, handsome and vacant, registers as a bit of an in-over-his-head lightweight.

Ultimately, any other shortcomings must be attributed to none other than William Shakespeare himself, whose poetic language elevates even as his absurd storytelling acrobatics crowd and frustrate. Cymbeline is, in a way, the Bard's indulgent greatest-hits play: contested lines of succession, an elixir creating the illusion of death, an evil queen hungry for expanded power, star-crossed love, a woman disguised as a man, and so on and so forth. There is so much going on here, and try as they might, Almereyda and his ace cast cannot entirely unburden the film. It lags beneath the sheer weight of incident and coincidence in the play and nearly lapses into self-parody in its final moments as one explanation piles upon another. In a sense, it ends up an entertaining and well-crafted argument as to why the play is comparatively rarely produced in this day and age.


NOTE: The film's advertising materials refer to it as Cymbeline, but another title, Anarchy, is shown in the credits both at the start and at the end. (An ultra-literal nod to presumed influence Sons of Anarchy?) Such a discrepancy is surely a testament to a troubled road to distribution.


1. The Lost City of Z - 2. A Cure for Wellness - 3. Phantom Thread - 4. T2 Trainspotting - 5. Detroit - 6. Good Time - 7. The Beguiled - 8. The Florida Project - 9. Logan and 10. Molly's Game

Thu Mar 26, 2015 10:11 pm
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