A Midsummer Night's Dream
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Imagine a work by Shakespeare reduced to one of those pretty, glossy coffee-table picture books that have only a dollop of text alongside its sumptuous photographs, and you might have Michael Hoffman's adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. This all-star version of Shakespeare's comedy is gorgeously shot in Tuscany, complete with a magical forest, breathtaking landscapes, beautiful villas, picturesque villages, stunning period costumes--oh wait, there's supposed to be a story here, too! Hoffman hijacks Shakespeare's basic premise but doesn't instill it with much more than surface shine and transplants it to turn-of-the-century Italy. Ergo, it's left up to the actors to find the heart and soul of this classic play, in which the fairies of the forest play mix and match with four young lovers, courtesy of a magical love potion. Hoffman couldn't ask for better (or better looking) actors to play Shakespeare's dreamlike love games--Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline, Anna Friel, Dominic West, the list goes on and on--but he sure as heck doesn't know what to do with them, aside from putting them in various states of undress. Only Flockhart (as the lovestruck Helena), Tucci (a sprightly Puck), Pfeiffer (dazzling and funny as the queen of the fairies), and especially the sublime Kline (as weaver-turned-donkey Bottom) seem to connect with their characters in ways that make this adaptation occasionally soar; the rest are inexplicably left to flounder. Hoffman does seem to set himself right with the film's climax, when Bottom's amateur acting troupe hilariously enacts the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (it helps that the troupe includes Roger Rees, Sam Rockwell, and Bill Irwin). Those searching for a more in-depth exploration of Shakespeare's farce might do better to look elsewhere, but if it's gorgeous actors and scenery you're in the mood for (along with an evocative opera soundtrack), and an all's-well-that-ends-well ending, this Midsummer Night will give you pleasant if weightless dreams. --Mark Englehart
Top customer reviews
But if you can get past your conservative views and are open to the language, then watch A Midsummer Night's Dream.
I think that after five hundred years, it's amazing that these plays are still around and can generate such mainstream attention. I also feel that after that long, a fresh adaptation is more than welcome, especially if you've been subjected to the less than glamorous BBC version.
I felt that the setting (the Italian Athens you've never heard of) and anachronistic props (bikes with lights) actually lend to the farcical quality of this movie. It is a comedy and it is supposed to be funny, so lighten up and enjoy the fantastic performances of Michelle Pfeiffer (my FAVORITE Fairy Queen), Rupert Everett (fairy king--pun intended?), Kevin Kline as Bottom (he makes an Ass of himself--heehaw), and the myriad of other wonderful actors and actresses that breathe life into an old play.
And before you take offense to a director's interpretations, you might inquire as to the reasons for them before you denounce his movie. And if you really want the Bard's opinion, Joseph Fiennes could probably give it to you.
All good things, JOE
There's also the mystery of the bicycles. They're definitely not from Athens or from Greek mythology. And the fairies' haunts in the woods look amazingly pre-Raphaelite.
All that aside, there are some nice performances in this film. Stanley Tucci does a wonderful Puck, Kevin Kline actually manages to do a good job with Bottom once his wife is out of the picture, and the other tradesmen are quite well done. Flockhart does a passable Helena, and Michelle Pfeiffer is ravishing as Titania.
One thing I couldn't get past in this movie is that there are at least four, count 'em, four different accents being employed. Hermia is obviously a long lost sister of Elisa Doolittle, while Lysander sounds a lot more like, oh, James Mason... meanwhile, Hippolyta seems to have gone to the Gina Lolabrigida school of diction and Calista Flockhart... well who knows WHERE she got HER accent.
Oh, while we're at it, is it REALLY necessary to have mud wrestling in bloomers? I mean, we all would have paid just to catch a glimpse of Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline.
Yes, this video is worth seeing. No, it isn't great Shakespeare. Watch it just for fun. Let's hope Branaugh is over his Hamlet fiasco and back producing SERIOUS performances of the Bard's work.
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