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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  1. Renee said,

    ….told you so. I think it takes a lot to stomach that movie. I don’t hate Woody Allen either. Though I do think he is a bit beyond odd. There are a few things he’s done that I do actually like. But this one…. well, it does not fall in the “like” category.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Which ones do you like?

      • Renee said,

        lol, Funny you should ask, because honestly the only one I can think of that I really LOVE isn’t even a movie, it’s a stage play. Don’t Drink The Water is actually one of my all time favorite stage comedies. There was a made for TV movie of it, but it really is a great comedic script.

        Zelig was awesome from a historical perspective. I loved how he used real footage from the WWII era and inserted the characters into it. And they did it 10 years before Forrest Gump!

        I’ve see others that I could stomach, Hannah & Her Sisters, Bullets Over Broadway… I’m at a loss after that though. LOL!

        • orwhatyouwill said,

          I haven’t seen Zelig, so I’ll look for that. I always feel a little unsophisticated in my inability to appreciate WA. Like, I’m not quite hip enough or savvy enough in a NYC way to see how wonderful he is, you know? All I know is I’m usually eager for his movies to be over. 🙂

  2. Tue Sorensen said,

    I haven’t seen Sex Comedy yet, but I’m not a great fan of WA, either. What I tend to like by him are his ’70s slapstick comedies. I find them funny and politically intriguing. But his serious movies, I find it hard to stomach. They range from boring to repetitive to pretentious to awful.

  3. Smiling on Bergman’s White Night « Or What You Will said,

    […] comedies, Smiles of a Summer Night) I think I might have enjoyed Woody Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy a little more if I’d watched it after seeing Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night. […]

  4. Finally, Bliss « Or What You Will said,

    […] As I explained in my earlier posts, this show is not directly Shakespearean. It is a musical version of Ingmar Bergman’s wonderful film Smiles of a Summer Night. Bergman was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and there are shared themes. Smiles of a Summer Night also inspired Woody Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy. […]

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