It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night” bears something of the same relationship to his serious romances (like “Romeo and Juliet”) that, if you will forgive the comparison, “Airplane!” bears to “Airport.” Adjust for period, genre and style, and acknowledge the fact that Shakespeare occupies a different creative universe than, say, David Zucker, and the intention is the same: Elements that are heartbreaking when handled seriously become funny when they're pushed over the top.
Trevor Nunn's new film version of “Twelfth Night,” a lighthearted comedy of romance and gender confusion, creates a romantic triangle out of the same sorts of mistaken sexual identities that inspired “Some Like It Hot.” And Nunn directs it in something of the same spirit; the film winks at us while the characters fall in love. To be sure, Imogen Stubbs makes a better boy than Jack Lemmon made a girl, but nobody's perfect.
The period has been moved up to the 18th century, and the dialogue has been slightly simplified and clarified, but Shakespeare's language is largely intact (and easier to understand than in Baz Luhrmann's new “Romeo & Juliet”). Also intact is the elaborate low-comedy subplot involving the servants, which gets too much screen time relative to the main story, but supplies showcases for a ribald cast of character actors.
The story: A great storm at sea capsizes a ship. A young woman named Viola (Imogen Stubbs) is washed ashore, but believes her twin brother Sebastian has drowned. Finding herself in the unfamiliar kingdom of Ilyria, where a young woman might be at hazard, she dresses in her brother's uniform, cuts her hair, pastes on a false mustache, and poses as a young man named Cesario.