Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Taming Of The Shrew (2005) DVD Review

The Taming Of The Shrew  (2005) stars Shirley Henderson, Rufus Sewell, Stephen Tompkinson, Jaime Murray, Simon Chandler, David Mitchell, Santiago Cabrera and Twiggy Lawson. It was directed by David Richards. This Shakespeare Retold version is set in modern-day England, in the political realm. There is no induction.

Act I

The film opens on Katherine (Shirley Henderson), with a shot of her feet as she moves angrily down a hall, the music a sort of riff on the Jaws theme. When we see her face, she is snarling. It’s a bit over-the-top. She slaps Tim, a man who works for her. Then in the hall, John calls her Kate, then corrects himself: “Katherine.” Katherine is in a dark suit, her hair in a tight bun at the back of her head. Bianca (Jaime Murray) is a model, and photographers hound her as she arrives at an airport. She is dressed in white. She sees an attractive man, Lucentio (Santiago Cabrera), and tells the woman at the desk to upgrade his ticket and to seat him next to her.

John suggests Katherine run for higher political office, but says her being married would help. Katherine gives him the finger.

Katherine and Bianca have lunch and discuss this idea of marriage. They seem to get along well. Interestingly, in place of the Baptista character, we have Katherine and Bianca's mother (Twiggy Lawson). There is no mother in the play. In the film, there is no father. The mother shows more love to Bianca, but that could be simply because Bianca has been away. Bianca announces she’s had six marriage proposals this week, and met a man on the plane, whom she’s invited round later. Two other lunch patrons ask for Bianca’s autograph, and Katherine gets so upset she upends the table (a ridiculous extreme), and then storms out.

Bianca invites Katherine to a party at her place before she leaves for New York. The Hortensio character in this version is named Harry (Stephen Tompkinson), and he works as Bianca’s manager and is of course in love with her. She tells him she doesn’t want to see him anymore, that she’s outgrown him. The way she dismisses Harry shows her mean side. Lucentio (it sounds like she calls him Lucentia) arrives. He is nineteen, and is supposedly there to teach her Italian. Bianca tells Harry she has no intention of getting married, saying she’ll get married when Katherine does (a way of saying she’ll never marry – obviously quite different from the play).

The next morning, Petruchio (Rufus Sewell) arrives at Harry’s place, pounding on his door. He says he’s back from Australia, having been kicked out of that country, and is now toying with the idea of getting married because his father has died. In this version, the father was supposed to leave him some money, but didn’t. Petruchio is the only one to speak lines directly from the play. He says, “So I’ve come to wive it wealthily in Padua,” which is odd, as this takes place in England. Petruchio asks Harry if he knows any rich women. Harry is a good friend to Petruchio, saying he couldn’t inflict a certain woman on him. But when Harry recounts the story of his dismissal from Bianca, Petruchio begins asking questions about Katherine. Harry tells him Katherine is thirty-eight and still a virgin. Petruchio, again speaking a line from the play, says, “Thou know’st not gold’s effect.”

Act II

Katherine’s mother comes to pick her up to take her to Bianca’s apartment for the party. Petruchio and Harry show up at the party, just as Katherine races out, followed by Bianca who demands that Katherine apologize. Katherine’s mother explains to Harry that Katherine smashed a guitar over someone’s head (an interesting change, as in the play it’s Hortensio who has the lute smashed over his head). Katherine gets in the elevator, and Petruchio rushes to step inside with her. And the wooing scene takes place in the elevator. He immediately calls her Kate. And when she corrects him, he repeats “Kate” several times, then tells her he’s going to marry her. The elevator gets stuck, so Petruchio begins banging on the buttons. It’s a bit absurd, but gives them time alone. He tells her she’s tempting, and she slaps him. He says: “You do that again, I’ll hit you back. Harder.” He does truly seem to like her in this scene, which is good. When the doors do finally open, Harry is standing there. Petruchio tells him they’ll be married. Katherine responds, “In your dreams.” Petruchio tells Harry: “Don’t pay any attention to her. She can’t get enough of me. We agreed to keep quiet about it, you know, in public.” As she leaves, Petruchio blows her a kiss. He calls after her, “Kiss me, Kate.” She responds, “Up yours, weirdo.”

The next day at work, Katherine gets a message that Petruchio will meet her for lunch, and she allows herself a little smile. She witnesses him have an altercation with a bicyclist and then with a soccer player before he catches up with her. He is honest with her about his need for money. He takes her to his house, which he hasn’t seen in years. It’s a mansion, but it’s rundown. He admits he can’t afford to keep it “unless I marry extremely well.” He tells her he has a title, which interests her.


Bianca and Lucentio arrive back in England, and she learns that Katherine is getting married. Petruchio first dresses up for the wedding, but then changes. He is late for the wedding, and shows up on a motorcycle with Harry. He is drunk and in drag, with a skirt, boots and makeup (including his nails). He immediately grabs Katherine and pulls her into the church. Interestingly, he is in drag not to humiliate her but in order to be honest with her. We do see the wedding in this version. The only person on the groom’s side is Harry. During the ceremony, Petruchio lets Katherine know they’re flying out for their honeymoon today, not the next day as she thought. And so they’re going to miss their own reception. Katherine thinks her political career is over. Petruchio calls Harry and tells him to meet them in Italy, and tells him, “I’m going to tame the bitch.”

Act IV

We then see Katherine changing a flat tire on the way to their villa while Petruchio relaxes. Once in the villa, she goes to slap him, and he grabs her arm and flicks her cheek. He takes her mobile phone and also lets the air out of the car’s tires so she can’t leave. Petruchio also withholds sex from Katherine. Katherine sleeps and Petruchio eats with Harry outside when Harry arrives. Harry goes on about Bianca, then says, “So, plan B, I might marry a rich widow.” Katherine comes down and drinks some of the wine. Harry tells her a bit about Petruchio, that it couldn’t be helped, his being late to the wedding, and that Petruchio needs someone to think the world of him. She admits to Harry that she loves Petruchio.

In the morning, they’re in bed, and he admits to where he’s hidden her mobile phone and the air pump. He then says, “How brightly shines the moon.” She tells him, “That’s the sun, you pillock.” Then he says, “You shouldn’t contradict me.” She responds, “You shouldn’t talk bollocks.” He says, “If I say that’s the moon, it’s the moon.”

Act V

Bianca is getting ready for her own marriage. Her mother announces that she’s getting married too. There is a nod to the beginning of the play when Lucentio tells his father, Vincentio, “Papa, Bianca’s a multimillionaire. Why do I need to study anymore?” But then a man shows up with a prenuptial agreement for him to sign.

Back at the office, Petruchio does a variation of the Vincentio scene, asking Katherine if she’s ever seen a fairer-looking maid than this, while indicating Tim, the man who works for her. Petruchio continues: “What war of red and white within her cheeks? What stars do spangle heaven with such beauty as those two eyes become that heavenly face?” Again, Petruchio is the only character to speak lines directly from the play. He, not Katherine, says, “Young budding virgin.” Petruchio then demands a kiss from Katherine. She first says, “Not here,” but then kisses him.

They then go to what should be Bianca’s wedding, but Lucentio and Bianca are arguing about the prenuptial agreement. Harry’s widow turns out to be Katherine’s mother (an odd touch), and she plans to make Harry sign one too. Bianca asks Katherine’s opinion, leading Katherine to give a variation of her famous speech. Katherine directs it at Bianca: “I think you should frown less, to begin with. Otherwise, you’ll put him off.” She then says, “I think that your husband is your lord and your life and your keeper.” These lines are close to Shakespeare’s but not direct quotes. Bianca breaks up Katherine’s speech by interrupting, “Excuse me?” Katherine says: “He’s the boss. Day in, day out, he submits his body to painful labor.” Bianca interjects, “No, he doesn’t.” Katherine continues: “And all we do is sit at home in front of the telly all day, eating chocolates. I know I do, when I’m not running the country.” To Bianca she says, “I’ve been like you – argumentative, obnoxious, bad-tempered. And what good did it do me? I think you should do whatever he tells you to do, whenever he tells you to do it.” And Katherine does tell Bianca, “I think you should be prepared to place your hands below your husband’s feet in token of your duty to him, and not ask him to sign any bloody silly agreements.”

Time: 86 minutes

(The DVD includes a short special feature, with interviews with director David Richards, actor Rufus Sewell and producer Diederick Santer. One thing they talk about is Katherine’s final speech.)

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