(director/writer: Michael Almereyda; screenwriter: based on the play by William Shakespeare; cinematographer: Tim Orr; editors: John Scott Cook, Barbara Tulliver; music: David Ludwig; cast: Dakota Johnson (Imogen), Ethen Hawke (Iachimo), Ed Harris (Cymbeline), Penn Badgley (Posthumus), Bill Pullman (Sicilius Leonatus), John Leguizamo (Pisanio), Milla Jovovich (The Queen), Anton Yelchin (Clothen), Delroy Lindo (Belarius), Peter Gerety (Dr. Cornelius), Kevin Corrigan (The Hangman), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Caius Lucius), James Ransone (Philario), Harley Ware (Arviragus); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ben Sachs, Prashan Shah, Clayton Young; Lionsgate; 2014)
“It gives us Shakespeare, but with a murkiness and lack of poetics and too many story-lines converging all at once.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Experimental filmmaker Michael Almereyda (“Marjorie Prime”/”Hamlet”) bases his tragedy on one of the weaker plays by Shakespeare. He updates it to modern times but keeps the Bard’s Elizabethan dialogue, which left me feeling as if I’ve been hosed.
In this unsettling tragicomedy version, Cymbeline (Ed Harris) is the king of a New York 1960s style motorcycle gang of drug traffickers. The Queen (Milla Jojovich) is Cymbeline’s scheming second wife, who wants her oafish son, from another marriage, Cloten (Anton Yelchin), to marry hubby’s beautiful daughter Imogen (Dakota Johnson). But the king is pissed that Imogen (Dakota Johnson), against his wishes, marries the lower-class skateboarder Posthumus (Penn Badgley).
While in exile, Posthumus meets the conniving Iachimo (Ethan Hawke), who tricks Posthumus into betting that he can fuck Imogen. When Iachimo fakes evidence that he did so, the jealous Posthumus sends his servant Pisanio (John Leguizamo) to kill Imogen but he wisely spares her.
Dressed as a boy, she tries to find her husband and clear things up. Instead she finds the shady Belarius (Delroy Lindo) with her two long lost brothers. Belarius has been banished by the King for over twenty years.
Meanwhile the King follows his wife’s advice to no longer pay the bribe money to the crooked police headed by Caius Lucius (Vondie Curtis-Hall), and he dumps Hershey Kisses on them instead of real coin.
This version gives us skateboarders, handguns, iPad users, black leather jacket bikers, and an awkward ending in a parking lot. It gives us Shakespeare, but with a murkiness and lack of poetics and too many story-lines converging all at once.
REVIEWED ON 4/21/2018 GRADE: C