A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Rated PG-13 for partial nudity
Starring Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart and Stanley Tucci
CineSight Rating ** 1/2
Shakespeare certainly seems to be experiencing quite a revival in the past few years. It's too bad he's not around to enjoy the royalties!
This latest retelling of the Bard's bawdy comedy trasnports us to 1890's Tuscany.
Helena (Flockhart) is head-over-heels in love with Lysander. The only problem being that he is after Helena's friend Hermia. Although Hermia's father is all in favor of her marriage to Lysander, Hermia doesn't love him. She happens to be ga-ga for the dashing young Demetrius. Hermia and Demetrius decide their only chance for happiness is to elope. This they do, pursued by Lysander, with Helena in tow.
A large dose of comedy is added to this Victorian soap opera in the form of a local group of tradesmen; amateur thespians led by master Nick Bottom (Kline). The 'actors' are preparing a play to entertain their Duke on his wedding day. They plan to rehearse their tragedy somewhere quiet, where they won't be disturbed.
The fleeing lovers, their pursuers, and the band of hopeful entertainers all converge in the forest outside town - a forest which happens to be overrun by a mischievous gang of fairies (yes, fairies), led by their Queen Titania (Pfeiffer) and King Oberon (Everett). Of course, we can't forget Oberon's impish hench-fairy, Puck (Tucci), who is the cause of much of the confusion that follows; identities are mistaken, love potions are mixed up and the chaos begins. However, since this is a Shakespeare comedy, you know it'll all work out wonderfully.
Kevin Kline is really the shining light in this production. As the clownish Nick Bottom, he exudes a perfect mixture of charm, innocence and over-the-top theatricality that's a pleasure to watch. In addition, he seems very comfortable with Shakespeare's dialog - something the young lovers seem to struggle with. They either dash madly through the text, as though saying it fast will somehow make it seem natural, or else drag it out in bad Olivier impersonations.
The atmosphere of the piece is very unusual, from the operatic soundtrack to the Victorian-style theatrical costumes and sets. The film's style is memorable, but of the main characters, Kline certainly stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.