Michael Almereyda once again stuffs a Shakespearean play into modern day society and comes up with an incomprehensible mess. His film of "Hamlet" at least used as its framework an enduring masterpiece with themes as relevant to today's world as when it was written. But "Cymbeline" is an obscure, rarely produced oddity from Shakespeare's canon which employs unlikely plotting centered on obsolete sexual morality which has no relevance to today's world. Why Almereyda thought this archaic chestnut needed to be set in the present day is baffling.
It is up to the actors to inject some life into this dull mess and for the most part, they are not up to the task. Dakota Johnson is stunning to look at as the ill-used Imogen, but gives a one-note performance that is insufferable to watch. Ethan Hawke brings to the evil Iachimo the same dull monotone that he employed as Almereyda's Hamlet. And Penn Badgley makes the gullible Posthumus seem like a refugee from a boy band. Only Delroy Lindo and Ed Harris project the charisma necessary to make their characters interesting, although demoting Harris' Cymbeline from the King of Britain in the original text to the head of a motorcycle gang is unimaginably reductive.
Almereyda seems to have a fetish for updating Shakespearean drama into the modern world and has no issue with pummeling it into a different shape to fit his concept no matter what the Bard's original intention was while writing it. The approach worked intermittently with "Hamlet" but fails completely with "Cymbeline." Almereyda would be well advised to seek out contemporary stories to make films of and leave Shakespeare alone.