|Emma Thompson & Kenneth Branagh in Much Ado About Nothing.|
When Kenneth Branagh adapted Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing for the screen in 1993, he had the good sense to shape it like a romantic comedy. Romantic comedy may be a modern genre, but Much Ado has all the same elements – most importantly, two lovers who begin as antagonists and find their way through the friction to a romance that is deepened by the challenges they pose to one another. It also has some of the funniest romantic banter in the history of theater and Emma Thompson, as the unstoppably witty Beatrice, blazes through those lines with the exuberant physicality of an English screwball heroine.
Much Ado may be the forerunner to all romantic comedy, but there’s another association between Shakespeare’s comedies and the modern genre: that like the lovers in Twelfth Night or As You Like It, the characters in romantic comedies often court through disguise. From Ernst Lubitsch’s sublime Shop Around the Corner and Preston Sturges’ mischievous The Lady Eve to the rollicking cross-country romance of Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild with its notes of darkness, romantic comedies are about the roles we play to win love and the risks we take in finally shedding our disguises to earn that love. (Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve and Melanie Griffith in Something Wild both move through a series of disguises as the movie progresses and they fall in love with the men they try to con.) The love stories are quests for fulfilment, where the characters, through romantic surrender, throw off the defenses they have become all too comfortable in and with it the need for disguise.
|Clare Danes & Billy Crudup in Stage Beauty.|