Michael Hoffman’s 1999 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is voluptuous and sexy and altogether dreamy. The setting is around 1900 in Italy and everyone is mad about bicycles. I wasn’t sure about all the zooming around on bikes, but it ended up working for me.
The fairy world is weird and wonderful, bizarre and beautiful. I love the fairies. They’re sparkly and spirited. Stanley Tucci’s Puck is great—I love his facial expressions and he’s puckish without being mean. Rupert Everett’s Oberon is handsome and suave and he manages to bring out the kingliness of this fairy king. Michelle Pfeiffer is luminescent. She’s gorgeous and dreamy and completely fairy-like. Fantastic!
The young lovers are fun to watch. Calista Flockhart is a convincing Helena. She’s a simpering spaniel doormat while conveying the intensity of her attachment to the unworthy Demetrius. I was very interested in Helena’s motivation after watching Picture This, where Helena is portrayed as selfish and making poor decisions and ultimately suffering because Demetrius’s love for her is not true love, but love sprung from fairy magic. I don’t agree with this assessment. I view Helena as misled by Demetrius, who loved her and then left her for no apparent reason. She is heartbroken and unable to just let go. It’s not her fault that the fairies intervene on her behalf. I saw Flockhart’s portrayal of Helena as true to the text. She’s in love and she’s willing to (mud)fight for what she wants.
I have a few quibbles with the film. I did not like Theseus (David Strathairn) and Hippolyta (Sophie Marceau). Strathairn’s Theseus is stiff and he seems to have difficulty delivering the lines. Marceau’s Hippolyta is not even slightly Amazonian and I found myself really annoyed when she brushed away a tear at the end of Pyramus and Thisby. Really? A tear?
I enjoyed Kevin Kline’s Bottom, although I think he is way too handsome for Bottom. Kline’s Bottom is not nearly the ass that I picture Bottom to be. And yet, he’s quite an ass. And so on that note, I will end. With that tedious, brief scene of that very tragical mirth. And yes, I was definitely Laughing Out Loud at the end.
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