About every decade, accomplished British theater director Trevor Nunn takes a break from the stage for a foray into filmmaking, and Twelfth Night is his project for the 1990s. This handsomely mounted version of Shakespeare's beloved screwball comedy suggests he should lower himself to celluloid adaptations more often. An energetic, first-rate cast seems to be having tons of fun with the intertwined plot and multiple entendres of Shakespeare's dialogue. Especially effective is Ben Kingsley as Feste, the "fool"; in this topsy-turvy world, he emerges as the deceptively wise commentator on these ludicrous events, practically winking at the camera in a gleeful awareness he withholds from the others. Nigel Hawthorne is also memorable as the stuffy Malvolio, who gets tricked into his own reversal through a practical joke, becoming more a fool than the drunkards and other merry-makers who set him up. Those who prefer Shakespeare's tragedies will undoubtedly find their patience tried by the essential frivolity of the whole enterprise. But those open to the Bard at his breeziest should enjoy Twelfth Night, especially with Nunn's solid job of sorting out the myriad characters, which leaves the language the only obstacle for a viewer to tackle.
by Derek Armstrong review