How do you screw up Shakespeare’s hilariously malleable feuding couple farce “Taming of the Shrew?”
If you’re the Polish team behind their cleverly-retitled modern setting of the tale, you put all your efforts into a stupidly complicated story and a lot less in shrewishness.
“The Taming of the Shrewd” is about a not-nearly-irritable-enough just-cheated-on bee scientist from Chicago who comes home in a not-quite-fury to throw a monkey wrench into a dying furniture firm’s plans to buy the valley where she grew up, set up her “smart” beehives and renounce men in general and the one hunk in particular that two factions want to seduce and distract her into changing her mind.
Shakespeare’s play was complicated, with competing interests hiring an unflappable and unsuitable suitor to marry an old sister so that one of them could win the hand of her beautiful, sweet and companiable younger sister. This is needlessly complex on a whole other level.
“Kiss me, Kate” becomes Kaska (Magdalena Lamparska), the loutish seducer Petruchio is “Patryk” (Mikolaj Roznerski) and the sweeter younger sister and assorted other bits of business are switched around, but you can glimpse the Bard of Avon here and there around the edges of this sex farce that’s more sexy than farcical.
The schemers begin with Patryk’s older sister Agata (Dorata Landowska), who needs a loan to save the family company so that they can sell the Persian Gulf States furnishings made from the rare buried “bog wood” of Zakopane. That’s a tourist village whose biggest landowners are the frenemy blowhards Jedrus (Tomasz Sapryk) and Wacus (Piotr Cyrwus). They’re ready to sell and Agata has the loan to buy.
Damned if Kaska’s letting that happen. She, like the locals, doesn’t know the real reason Agata covets their valley. Nor does Agata’s ne’er do well brother Patryk, whom we meet getting shaken down by a loan shark’s enforcer.
Agata arm-twists Patryk into taking one for the team and “persuading” Kaska to change her mind. The local louts audition a number of other eligible bachelors to do the same thing, but Patryk persuades them to hire him as well.
Nobody knows anybody else’s hand in this poker game. And only Kaska’s scientific brain, her common sense and her temper can stop them.
Alas, there’s not enough “temper” here, just Kaska sizing up Patryk and enjoying humiliating his efforts to get to her. He gets locals to do all the manly things he wants to use to impress her — firewood chopping for her cabin, etc. And he just stands there, shirtless, waiting for her to succumb.
You can see possibilities here and there, but for the most part, this “Shrew(d)” bogs down in the details. All these people, all those agendas and there’s no “door slamming farce” staging or pacing to make this adaptation of an admittedly Neanderthal comedy by Shakespeare come to life.
Mountain goat attacks, bee shenanigans, squabbling conspirators and boorish local tourism appeals from a town that isn’t quite popular, isn’t really quaint and is not the least bit funny in itself hobble this already-too-tame “Taming” from start to finish.
Rating: TV-MA, sex, nudity and profanity
Cast: Magdalena Lamparska, Mikołaj Roznerski, Piotr Cyrwus, Tomasz Sapryk, Dorota Landowska and Dorota Stalińska
Credits: Directed by Anna Wieczur-Bluszcz, scripted by Hanna Węsierska, Wojciech Saramonowicz, ever-so-loosely-based on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:52