Movie Review By Heather Clisby
Just when I really want to indulge in another satisfying "Hollywood-sucks-and-here's-why" rant, they go and ruin it for me. In the hands of director, Michael Hoffman, "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a testament to the world's greatest playwright, an honor to the playful spirit in which it was written back in 1595 or so.
The entire cast is superb and having so much fun in their roles - think of it! - performing Shakespeare and being paid on film scale! Stanley Tucci is wonderful as Puck, the mischievous trickster running errands for Oberon, played by the delectable Rupert Everett. Michelle Pfeiffer is quite naturally and beautifully, Titania, Queen of the Fairies.
Filmed in Tuscany, Italy, the film is an orgy of sexy food, rampant love and sumptuous foliage. Oh, and bicycles. Set at the turn of the century, the new invention provides a subtle comic instrument for mortals and fairies alike. Puck's discovery of the odd contraption is pure enchantment.
David Straitharn is Theseus, the handsome Duke designated to pass judgement on the mis-matched. He is softened by his love for Hippolyta, played by the divine Sophie Marceau. Their sparks are subtle but deep, nonetheless; their love is a blessing to the story.
Playing the couples, we have Christian Bale as the selfish Demetrius; the electrically-charged Dominic West as the fierce lover, Lysander; Anna Friel, as Hermia, Lysander's love and Demetrius's intended and Calista Flockhart as the determined, lovesick "I want to be your spaniel" Helena, desperate for Demetrius. All the actors are well-suited for a Shakespearean performance but Flockhart and West really stand out here.
If there is a show-stealer, it is Kevin Kline as Nick Bottom, the actor who wants every part that exists. His accompanying theater troupe revere him with brotherly love and honest admiration and he revels in his craft. Once Puck turns him into a human-donkey hybrid and makes Titania fall in love with him, the fun really begins. Watching the ethereal Pfeiffer drool over Kline as a human ass is a delight.
Keep in mind when you see this film that the garden was created using all real plants and flowers - not a plastic branch in the bunch. This is astounding when you first see the giant acorn love bed of Titania. I can only say that I want one, I want one, I want one.
Leaving the theatre, I was impressed with not only the filmmakers but the movie-goers as well - the computer generation still claps for Shakespeare. There is some hope for the human race after all.
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 5/5/99
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