Woody Allen’s Version

April 4, 2010 at 8:41 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Film Adaptations) (, , , , )

Woody Allen seems to be one of those people you either love or you don’t. That’s how most people I know react to him. I’m sort of in the middle. I don’t dislike Woody Allen films. Actually, I really want to like them. But I often find them wearing on my patience. The endless dithering, the inane dialogue… I see the point he’s making, but I find I’m usually looking forward to the end of the movie.

That’s the case with A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy. It’s only 90 minutes long, so you’d think my fight or flight reflex wouldn’t have kicked in, but it did. Really, after about 45 minutes I’d had enough of this movie. It wasn’t bad, it was just wearing.

There are three couples. It’s the early 1900s. The action takes place at Adrian (Mary Steenburgen) and Andrew’s (played by Allen) home in the country. Adrian’s cousin Leopold (Jose Ferrer) is marrying the much younger Ariel (Mia Farrow). They come to stay with Adrian and Andrew for the night before their wedding. Inexplicably, Andrew also invites his old friend Maxwell (Tony Roberts) who brings “anygirl”… really, any girl would do, so he asks a nurse, Dulcy (played by Julie Hagerty), who he barely knows.

It’s quickly apparent that none of the men are satisfied with their mates. Adrian and Andrew don’t have sex anymore. Leopold is uneasy with giving up his long and satisfying bachelorhood. Maxwell, who seems to sleep with just about anyone, is completely uninterested in the sweet, yet lusty Dulcy the whole weekend.

And then there are complications. Andrew once dated Ariel and seeing her again fans some flames for him. Maxwell is hit by the proverbial lightning bolt and falls in love at first sight with Ariel. Leopold looks to sweet Dulcy to cheer him up on his last night of freedom.

The adage “Marriage is the death of hope” is repeated several times, and no one seems to hold the institution in much esteem. Because this is the night before the wedding, there’s still hope! So, enter the “comedy,” which I don’t find that funny. There are many planned and unplanned trysts, men climbing out windows and down trellises, Andrew flying around in a goofy bicycle/helicopter, etc. It’s wearing on the nerves.

I didn’t hate this movie. It’s beautifully filmed. Some of the imagery in the woods is really lovely and Mia Farrow is straight out of a Botticelli painting with her flowing hair and flower garland. The acting is good, the characters are fairly interesting.

Allen adds a mystical component. Andrew is an inventor and one of his inventions is a clunky “spirit box” that somehow creates shadowy images of the past and/or future. Sort of through the spirit box we learn the reason behind Adrian and Andrew’s marital problems. And the movie ends with one of the characters going off to flit around like a firefly/fairy in the spirit world.

Alrighty. Is it Shakespearean? Not so much. Some of the themes are there, I guess. The changeable nature of love, the presence of unseen, supernatural forces. This movie was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night. That movie also inspired A Little Night Music. And all were ultimately inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I will be watching all of them and reporting back—hopefully they will be funnier than Woody Allen’s version.

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