A workshop of William Shakespeare's Richard III inspires actor-director Al Pacino's breezy documentary, which aims to make the playwright accessible to contemporary American audiences.
Though a noteworthy cast of stage actors and Hollywood stars (including Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, and Alec Baldwin) gathers to work on the play, Looking for Richard does not present a straightforward filmed version of the scheming, deformed king's rise and fall.
Instead, Pacino turns the cameras on the rehearsal process and his own exploration of Shakespeare's history and meaning.
Scenes in full costume alternate with readings in street clothes, while interviews gather the opinions on the Bard of everyone from renowned scholars and Shakespearean actors to random New Yorkers. A trip to England allows brief visits to Shakespeare's birthplace and the Globe Theater, but Pacino's focus remains on the United States and his desire to prove that American actors can act the plays without mimicking their British counterparts.
Clearly a labor of love for Pacino, the film benefits from his passionate persona and direct, no-nonsense attitude; while the performances may vary in quality, the film manifests a refreshingly casual, unpretentious, and enthusiastic approach to Shakespeare.