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A Knight’s Tale

Posted by martinteller on August 31, 2014

This was a mixed bag.  I really liked the band of characters surrounding William Thatcher (Heath Ledger).  Roland (Mark Addy), Wat (Alan Tudyk), Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany, and yes, that Geoffrey Chaucer) and later Kate (Laura Fraser) are a terrific little group.  Bettany in particular really shines, his stuff here is always incredibly entertaining (notwithstanding the hacky “I’ll be here all week” line, which I won’t blame him for).  I haven’t read “Canterbury Tales” since high school, and even then I think it wasn’t the whole book.  So I don’t know if this at all ties into one of the particular stories, and there may have been literary allusions that escaped me.  But Bettany’s portrayal of Chaucer is top-notch character work, definitely my favorite part of the film.

As for Ledger, he’s good when he’s interacting with his crew or doing his own thing… but the romance with Shannyn Sossamon is blah.  Maybe because Shannyn Sossamon is blah.  It’s rather frustrating to see a much better actress like Bérénice Bejo at her side, being wasted in a nothing role.  I wanted to swap the two actresses.  However, the romantic story does provide the best shot in the film, a wonderful wide shot inside a cathedral as Jocelyn tells William how he can prove his love.  Director Brian Helgeland resists the temptation to cut to close-ups, instead holding back and emphasizing the distance as they walk through the cathedral, in an unbroken pan.  It was a really nice shot.

I don’t have any objection on principle to the anachronistic use of rock music.  Moulin Rouge did it the same year to great effect.  I just wish they had picked better songs.  David Bowie, Sly & the Family Stone… excellent.  I’ve still got “Golden Years” stuck in my head the next day.  “Low Rider”… okay.  I love the song, didn’t think it worked all that well in context.  “Takin’ Care of Business”, “The Boys Are Back in Town”, “We Will Rock You”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”… sorry, not a fan.  They’re cliché choices.  Too on-the-nose.  I want to see (or hear) some more imagination here.  Let’s think outside the boom box.

The story is enjoyable at times, but amounts to a formulaic underdog sports movie, hitting all the predictable beats.  The baddie (Rufus Sewell) is so ridiculously nasty.  He… (gasp!)… CHEATS!  At least make him enough of an actual threat that he doesn’t have to cheat.  That would make the ending more satisfying.  Also the round of tournaments seems to drag on, making the movie feel longer than it should.  One less tournament perhaps would tighten things up.  Still, there is fun to be had, and I’m certainly in favor of the idea that “nobility” should derive from merit, not blood.

Worth watching just for the supporting cast, I’d say, but obviously I had some issues with the movie.  Rating: Fair (69)


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