Shakespeare Undone: Cymbeline

 DATELINE: Clashing Cymbeline


King Cymbeline and Step-son!

Michael Almereyda is known for putting the modern spin on the old stuff. To call Shakespeare’s secondary play, Cymbeline, a lost masterpiece in the trailer is a tad misleading.

We must ask, ‘what have we got here?’

Updates of Shakespeare are always a fad, and Michael Amereyda provides us with a Sons of Anarchy version of Shakespeare’s lesser Brits versus Romans story.

Alas, Shakespeare was already making a parody of his earlier work, Romeo and Juliet, in this late career tale of young love.

Putting a secondary Shakespeare play into an American biker setting is guaranteed to drive biker fans crazy in five minutes, and Shakespearean purists to the remote control in 10 minutes. No one will stick around for the standard blood bath we know is at the end of Shakespeare’s dramas and histories.

Watching this one is like viewing those delinquents in West Side Story as they do ballet down the mean streets of East Harlem in a different Shakespeare update. It is slightly ridiculous.

We are always sympathetic to American actors who try Shakespeare. This film avoids showing you the actual Shakespearean dialogue in the trailer. It may be a rude shock to the unwary fans who tune in.

We commend every American actor in the movie for managing to use their skateboards and smart phones and still spit out the Shakespearean language. The cast is marvelous: Ed Harris plays King Cymbeline, John Leguizamo as an unfortunate aide, Ethan Hawke as a notable enemy, the lead Anton Yelchin is Harris’s step-son.

We suspect there are English majors who have read a dozen Shakespearean plays but never this one. So, we are pleased that Almereyda has made it available and semi-watchable. The plot is incomprehensible, because we can hardly root for drug abusing violent Hell’s Angel bikers versus corrupt and ruthless police.

If done with British actors, the whole thing would look like something out of a gay leather movie, which American boys Anton Yelchin and Penn Badgley have their parts.

We might never see another version of Cymbeline other than this movie. For that we are grateful, even as many other fans head for the exits. We stayed till the end.


Broken Horses—and Late Star Lost

DATELINE:  Young Promise Snuffed Out

 anton-yelchin  Yelchin in Star Trek

The senseless, accidental death of young actor Anton Yelchin becomes more tragic with the examination of his films far beyond the Star Trek series.

Yelchin was on his way to making a serious mark in intelligent, compelling independent drama.

One of these named Broken Horses gives Yelchin a role he seemed likely to patent:  sensitive young man thrown into insensitive situations. His rising star is reminiscent of young Montgomery Clift.

The story entails two brothers: one autistic and one artistic. Yelchin is the violinist who escapes the border town where his cop father has been murdered to make a life in New York as a symphony musician.

He suffers guilt over having left his mildly retarded brother in the care of a ruthless drug lord (Vincent D’Onofrio).  He returns to learn the horror of how his brother is a brainwashed trigger man for the gang.

D’Onofrio stands like a giant among pygmies, literally. It seems everyone in the cast is a pipsqueak next to his actual heavy villain. Also, of interest is that Thomas Jane takes on a small role as the father of the two boys that D’Onofrio takes in.  Thomas and Vincent jump-started their careers in Velocity of Gary 25 years earlier.

The film is the first American movie by Indian director Vidhu Vinod Chopra. His vision of a white stallion charging out of a futuristic house in the desert likely was the inspiration for the rest of the film he also co-wrote.

Chris Marquette plays Yelchin’s older brother with enough dull-wit to make D’Onofrio’s evil manipulation particularly heinous.

Yelchin’s acting promise provides a big flash here.