Fun and bright adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the original play…
I have always been a massive fan of Shakespeare and I always believed that the works of the bard were ahead of his time. That we can see his stories transposed to new places, times and seen through the eyes of another culture in a new age, is testament to that. Gender roles in Shakespeare are a major theme across all his works, but none more so than As You Like It which has been adapted for film since the age of cinema began. In this modern and updated version of the play the emphasis is on this aspect – raising questions about gender fluidity and the nature of romance.
Set in a bustling area of Taipei where there is no Internet, Rosalind (Kuo Hsueh-Fu) has returned to find her father The Duke who has been missing for years and must be found or else he loses his wealth to Orlando (Aggie Hsieh) and her best friend Celia’s father. After a meeting at a fight, Orlando falls in love with Rosalind and takes up a job as a delivery driver to try and find her. In the meantime, Rosalind has disguised herself as Roosevelt, Roselind’s twin brother and local fortune teller who challenges Orlando to find the Duke.
The film upends the old Shakespearian tradition of an all male cast to one where all the main characters are played by women. Add in traditional aspects of Taiwanese culture, overlaid pencil animation and a side cast of quirky fun characters – you have a perfect blend of flavour to keep you interested throughout. The casting make-up and tailoring are exactly right to bring out the nature of each character and it’s easy to let go of the gender question after a while. Indeed the androgynous roles and swapped gender are the great strength of this film that doesn’t veer too deeply into making that a novelty aspect.
The main focus stays on Orlando and Rosalind, which makes the side romances of Celia, Gold, Silver and Angel seem a little thin and it would have done better to flesh these roles out a little more than introduce a kidnapping and unrequited love subplot. Gold and Silver especially would have been a lot of fun to see more of and French-Chinese actress Camille Chalons deserved far more screen time as Celia.
Charming, lighthearted and frantically paced at times, this is a lovely addition to adaptations of the Bard. It’s hyper-coloured and a little messy in the storyline at times, but what teenage romance isn’t a little tangential? It’s also great to see the most progressive of Asian countries when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights create a film that celebrates the spirit of that progression in such an accessible way.