Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Winter's Tale (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

A British Rom-Com, “The Winter’s Tale”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Don’t you just love those British romantic comedies with Hugh Grant or Emma Thompson or Keira Knightley? There’s a new one coming up at the Tropic Cinema, a rom-com starring Sir Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench. It’s a sex romp involving false accusations of infidelity, disguised identities, and broken friendships … but all this with a happy ending.

Titled “The Winter’s Tale,” you can catch the limited showings at the Tropic on Tuesday, January 26 at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, January 31 at 1:30 p.m.

The script was penned by a noted writer near the end of his show-biz career. You might not guess the authorship based on the film’s full title -- “Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s The Winter’s Tale.” It was co-directed by Rob Ashford (known mostly for his TV productions of  “Peter Pan Live!” and “The Sound of Music Live!) and Royal Shakespearean-trained actor Kenneth Branagh.

For those of you who like to read film credits, you will discover that script was actually by a guy named William Shakespeare.

Written around 1611, “The Winter’s Tale” was originally grouped with Shakespeare’s comedies, but modern scholars have reclassified it as a romance. That makes it a rom-com, despite all the deaths and tragic events.

The story goes like this: Two old pals (they happen to be kings) become estranged when Leontes (played by Kenneth Branagh) suspects Polixenes (Hadley Fraser) of impregnating his wife Hermione (Miranda Raison). Family friend Paulina (Judi Dench) tries to intercede, but Hermione gets put to death, the infant daughter abandoned, and 16 years later Polixenes’ son falls in love with a pretty shepherd girl. Believe it or not, everything turns out okay. Well, mostly.

This was Shakespeare’s last play, mostly cribbed from Robert Greene’s 1588 pastoral romance “Pandosto.” The title (Shakespeare’s, not Branagh’s expanded version) likely comes from a 1590 play, “The Old Wives Tale,” in which a storyteller tells “a merry winter’s tale.” This implies a happy ending.

Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” is most famous for the stage direction: Exit, pursued by a bear.

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