Knight’s Tale, A

PG13
Stars: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk
Director / Writer: Brian Helgeland

It’s a noble tale – that a lowly knight’s squire can rise above his station in life, at a time when this simply wasn’t done, and become the world’s greatest jousting champion in a sport reserved for nobility. Along with this noble tale is a simple love story. The squire-turned-knight also wants to win the heart of a lady, a royal lady, a rather high aim for someone so low in life. This medieval film comes with an odd gimmick, that of using modern rock music to offset the action, and it actually works surprisingly well. One wishes, however, that there might be more – music that is.

Australian actor Heath Ledger plays William Thatcher, the squire who reinvents himself to become Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland and thus be able to ride in tournaments. He is supported in this masquerade by two buddies, Roland (Addy) and Wat (Tudyk) who whip him into shape in some humorous “training” sequences involving a horse, a cart and even a boat.

Then one day, traveling to their first big event, they come upon an unemployed and quite naked writer by the name of Geoffrey Chaucer. Yes, the same one, pre-The Canterbury Tales. It seems poor Geoff has a gambling problem. Not only did he lose his money but his clothes as well. An agreement is struck. In exchange for Chaucer’s penning some “patents of nobility” to successfully get William into the tournaments, and act as his herald, a kind of announcer/P.R. agent, William will feed and clothe him.

The merry quartet finds fame and fortune living the lie and winning contests. But William is soon distracted when he gazes upon a noblewoman. He even tracks her into a church, on horseback no less. Shannyn Sossamon plays the fair maiden Jocelyn, who most of the time looks like an exotic escapee from a Paris fashion runway with her odd, revealing clothes and hair and makeup fetishes rather than a lady during the 14th century. She’s also the film’s weakest link. Goodbye!

William’s biggest rival is the black knight named Count Adhemar (Sewell). It’s instant hatred because Adhemar also has his eye on Jocelyn who from the first makes it fairly well known that she chooses William – or rather his alter ego Sir Ulrich – as he tries desperately to play a nobleman, learning to dance, dine, dress and converse with the best of them, until the inevitable happens, when William’s true identity becomes an issue.

Lotta says: Although it bogs down a bit with all those knights bashing and falling backward onto or off their horses, A Knight’s Tale is good action, roused by a powerful choice of music. Ledger does well as leading man here if you like very young, short, wispish men (as I’m sure all the preteen girls do). Sewell has the thankless role of seething heavy – not much for him to do actually. Addy, Tudyk and especially Bettany are marvelous portraying William’s supporters and comic relief. And special mention goes to Laura Fraser as Kate, William’s armorer and Christopher Casenove, who plays William¹s father. Nice jobs from both of them. The film was a good bit of fun all around.

Reviewed: 5/12/01