tek's rating: ½

A Midsummer Night's Dream (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

This, of course, is an adaptation of the play by William Shakespeare, which I'm afraid as of the time I first watched this movie I have never read nor seen. Nevertheless, it's clear that there is some deviation from the original story, though I can't say exactly how much. It's set at the turn of the 19th century, in an Italian town called Monte Athena. It's a bit odd to see Shakespeare set in an era which is at once historic to a modern audience, and yet futuristic in relation to the time in which the play was written. Honestly, I don't see the point of that, other than to throw in some bicycles and a phonograph (and how the bicycles had electric lights is beyond me). It's also a bit odd to set the story in an Italian town which is based on a Greek city. Anyway, I'm fairly sure people didn't speak Elizabethan English in the 19th century, as they do in this film. But in spite of all of this confusion, I quite enjoyed the movie. (Of course, I also hope to someday read the actual play and maybe even see it performed in a more straightforward fashion.)

Anyway, as to the plot... there is a young woman named Hermia (Anna Friel), whose father has promised a man named Demetrius (Christian Bale) that he may marry her. But she's in love with a man named Lysander, who also loves her. So, there's a dispute, which is brought before Grand Duke Theseus (David Strathairn). According to Athenian law, Hermia is required to either submit to her father's will, or die (though Theseus also proposes the possibility of her becoming a nun, I guess). Anyway, Hermia and Lysander decide to flee Athens together. Meanwhile, there's a woman named Helena (Calista Flockhart), who is in love with Demetrius. But he wants nothing to do with her (though it is rumored that they've... been together). Hermia and Lysander tell Helena about their plan to run away, which would presumably leave Demetrius for her. For a reason I do not comprehend at all, this didn't make Helena feel any better, and she decides to tell Demetrius about their plan.

While all this is going on, there are two other plots taking place. One involves the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon (Rupert Everett) and Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer). Honestly, I couldn't tell what the hell their relationship was supposed to be. I've always thought of them as married, but here they seem... like rivals, though they also seem to have some love for each other. I guess. Maybe. It's like they had two separate kingdoms, but I'm really not sure about that. In any event, Oberon had a servant named Robin Goodfellow (Stanley Tucci), aka Puck. He sent puck to fetch a flower which at some point had been struck by one of Cupid's arrows, so that when some potion or whatever that came from the flower was put on someone's eyes while they slept, they'd fall in love with the first living creature they saw when they awoke. After Puck brings the flower to Oberon, he sends Puck to apply the potion to Demetrius's eyes, having witnessed a scene between him and Helena. But Puck comes upon Hermia and Lysander instead, and mistakenly applies the potion to Lysander. When he wakes up, he sees Helena, and falls in love with her. When Oberon learns of this mistake, he has Puck apply the potion to Demetrius, who also falls in love with Helena. But Helena thinks both men are mocking her with their professions of love. And she ends up getting in a fight with Hermia, who's just totally confused and distraught.

The other plot involves a group of people who are planning to put on a play, for a contest in honor of the impending marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. The lead actor in this play is Nick Bottom (Kevin Kline), who is very much a ham, and rather a fool. And he has a wife who apparently has no respect for him. Anyway, the group go out into the woods to practice their play, which happens to be where the fairies all are, even though mortals apparently can't see them. It's also where Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena are all wandering around. And at one point, Puck did something to Bottom that made him take on the appearance of an ass, mainly in the form of long ears on the top of his head. When his fellow actors see his new appearance, they run off in fear. Meanwhile, Oberon took some of the potion and applied it to Titania's eyes while she was sleeping, for a reason I don't fully understand, though I guess it was basically a practical joke. Or something. Anyway, when she wakes up she sees Bottom, and falls in love. Though later, Oberon sends Puck to apply a counterpotion to negate the spell Lysander was under, so he'd once again love Hermia (but leave Demetrius under the spell that made him love Helena). And Oberon applied the counterpotion to Titania, so she'd stop loving Bottom (who eventually wakes up looking normal again). Anyway... eventually there's a wedding, I guess. We don't exactly see that, but there is a play performed by Bottom and his fellow actors, though they're not very good. But ultimately... nothing that happens in the movie is of any more importance than a dream. Or so we're meant to believe. Whatever, it was fun.

Well, I feel like I've said too much, but I've also left a bit out. It's a happy ending, though. And a lot of the movie was really funny, especially the play at the end (which was decidedly reminiscent of "Romeo and Juliet"). And um... I dunno, the cast in general was good, I enjoyed the operatic touches, and... well, Shakespeare's just always good. I dunno what else to tell you.

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