A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1999

dir. Michael Hoffman

 

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When I bought this DVD I though it would be a load of old nonsense. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that is was a jolly good adaptation, visuals and performances bursting out of the screen. The production is fantastic, true Hollywood scale capturing the classic spirit of the play with lavish costumes and set design.

 

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Dominic West – younger than McNulty – was the perfect rival for Christopher Bale's impatient Demetrius and even Calista Flockheart made a wonderfully dotty Helena. Friel was fine and her beauty helped tie the other characters together very well.

 

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But the real stars of this show are the fairies and the players. Rupert Everett makes a superb Oberon, downplaying the role for the screen and speaking in low, seductive tones that I felt were totally right for the character. Michelle Pfeiffer also showcased her talent as so much more than just another American beauty and gives us a very funny Titania to work with, doting to the max. But my personal favourite of the fairies has got to be Puck, played by Stanley Tucci. His horns and goat-legs give his devilish grins an extra-lucid quality and as he gallivants from one scene to the next wreaking havoc he also gently brings us around to Puck's way of thinking, even to the point of a kind of special private intimacy with the audience.

 

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And of course, there's Bottom. Bottom, Bottom, wherefore art thou 'Bottom'? Observe Kevin Kline playing the role and you will know. Perhaps the most OTT of the entire cast, Kline does an excellent job and is very funny as the showoff-turned-ass who entices Titania when plans turn awry. His fellow players also step up to the plate in a big way and I can never remember Peter Quince the director (played by Roger Rees) ever being quite so memorable. The final realisation of their severely under-budgeted play is every bit as shambolic as we expect and the last fifteen minutes of the movie are happily spent watching them fumble one line after the next. Even Sam Rockwell sneaks in there as the hapless Francis Flute condemned to play the role of Thisbe. As though all these big Hollywood stars doing Shakespeare weren't enough as they are, David Straitharin (LA Confidential, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Sophie Marceau (no introduction necessary) play Theseus and Hippolyta, bringing a true sense of hierarchy to the cast. What a treat!

 

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