DRAMA; 1hr 46min
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay
Death redux: Ridley
Bard buffs would argue that nobody does him better, but director Claire McCarthy’s adaptation of Lisa Klein’s 2006 novel has gone the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern road regardless. Gamely revamping Shakespeare’s woe-soaked marathon Hamlet, she and screenwriter Semi Chellas have updated its Ye Olde dialogue and monkeyed with its wrist-slitter plot to striking if spotty effect.
Scooped into the high life as a motherless child by flibbertigibbet Queen Gertrude (Watts, pulling double shifts as the sexily doomed monarch and the frizzled witch sister Shakespeare never gave her), free spirit Ophelia (Ridley) is raised in the catty decadence of the royal court to become Gertrude’s most valued lady-in-waiting. This isn’t the cushy deal it might seem: production-designed up the yin-yang by David Warren, the court is a viperish hotbed of rococo opulence, observed by Ridley’s distinctly rational Ophelia (who knew?) with the same cool aplomb the actress brought to Star Wars outlander Rey. As the years pass in a figurative and literal haze of feasting and backstabbing, Ophelia catches the fancy of an insipid Prince Hamlet (MacKay). They fall crazily in love, but alas and alack (centuries-old spoiler alert!), crazy is the operative word—at least where the Prince is concerned.
Ridley digs doggedly into Ophelia’s bittersweet descent, and McCarthy’s intention is patently deadly serious, ahem, but for all their best efforts, the finished package comes off as Dallas in a palace. The vituperative King Claudius (Owen, who can at least be assured of the Worst Wig of the Year Award), the lost and outraged Gertrude, the blandly troubled Prince, the seething intrigue that runs the show and the chutzpah of the new twists that define it are a classic case of too much sound and fury signifying not very much. Not that that matters a whit in the heat of so many Moments. And after all, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…”