I’m sure you’ve had this experience: you’re on vacation (or house/dog sitting as I was the last 5 days) and you forgive yourself for binge watching Netflix (or your channel/show of choice). That was me this morning mesmerized by The Rolling Thunder Revue Bob Dylan doc. Ever since husband number two and his thick ‘bible’ of Dylan acoustic music, I’ve had this love/hate relationship with Bob. I guess I sort of assumed he was a deep womanizing (if those two words aren’t too oxymoronic) soul like my then husband, who absolutely idolized him. I got he was an icon, but because I was only 11 when the Rolling Thunder Tour came about, please forgive me, because I didn’t get ‘it’ until this morning with my mouth hanging open seeing Dylan in his prime singing profound songs like Hattie Carrol….holy sh*&! No wonder he got the Nobel Prize! He basically was the Singing Innocence Project (Hurricane)!!!
So how cool was it, that later I go to see All is True, the Shakespeare mid to end life bio pic starring Shakespearean Whisperer Kenneth Branagh (who I’m sorry I’ve added an unnecessary ‘u’ to in previous writings). And let’s face it, Will was the Dylan, before Dylan of playwrights, living a mere 400 years earlier. Unfathomable, right?
I made this connection when in the film All is True, a curious writer approaches William as he attempts to plant a garden, pestering him with ‘how did you do that?’ questions. A similar scene occurs in the doc, with Dylan just trying to wave the people off. True artists, like Shakespeare and Dylan, don’t need, want or even can explain it, it’s just comes out of them, that’s what makes them geniuses.
All is True (written by Ben Elton, described first as comedian on IMDB, his funny bone in this is employed a scant few, but expertly woven times) is much more than homage to a genius. The movie directed and starring Kenneth Branagh is about the man Shakespeare, much like Rolling Thunder is about Dylan. It’s about humans who due to the gift of the time they rose to stardom and their gift of transforming life into art that the public needed and wanted, are more than men, they’re creators with a capital “C”.
Judi Dench plays Shakespeare’s wife and while her understated role is great, the minor character who shines brightly due to range is Kathryn Wilder who plays Shakespeare’s daughter Judith. There’s way too much at stake to say much more, the spoilers in this have more layers than an Amway sales pitch, but suffice to say, Kathryn’s going places if given a chance. Ian McKellen gets a sweet cameo performance as Shakespeare’s sonnet muse, and I’d need to see this again (or like all students do, buy the Cliff Notes) to understand fully their (Branagh and his) witty 1600 speak dialogue. I think I got the ‘drift’, but need to to research further. History Vs. Hollywood hasn’t tackled this project yet, so I was unable to get a quick fix. I DO know McKellen looked a lot like a skinnier cowardly lion with the blond curls and peculiar mustache.
This movie is about finding your true happiness, what constitutes a ‘big’ life vs. little, the purpose of marriage, the reason to be resilient in relationships, pleasing your parents, why it would suck to live in 1600 for men or women, and last but not least, the ignorance of puritanism. A tall order.
And while I can’t give this a 100, as my film buddy Gus Mollasis did (I saw a few scenes as melodramatic add ons), I will give Branagh the rapier’s award for skilled oratory. And Ben Elton for writing a solid, but just shy of perfect, screenplay.