A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 75 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) – May 14th, 2010

Seriously, we are done with Star Wars. It’s been more than a week now and we have exhausted our Star Wars movies. To get fairly far away from science fiction/action we’ve moved to Shakespeare for tonight. And neither of us have seen this one yet! We own a number of Shakespeare adaptations and we’ve seen many of them, but a couple have slipped past us and this is one of them. Weird, since I like this play and I like the vast majority of the cast of this adaptation. Really, take a look at the cast. Sam Rockwell is in this! And David Strathairn! It’s an amazing cast full of people I like, and yet somehow we’ve never gotten around to putting it in. But then, that’s part of what this project is all about.

I’ve got to say, having seen Sam Rockwell recently in Iron Man 2, and at home in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s fun seeing him so young in this. His part is relatively small, but amusing. Really, a lot of the parts in this are relatively small ones. Bottom and Puck are really the stars, with everyone else playing the ensemble. But the ensemble is fantastic. Every member of the players gets his own little moment to shine, though I especially liked Sam Rockwell, as I mentioned, and Roger Rees as Peter Quince. Among the rest of the cast there are great performances and deliveries everywhere. While I do enjoy Shakespeare adapted to modern language, I also love seeing it performed well in its original form (and I’ve decided to take a cue from Helena and use “Oh, spite!” whenever I’m ticked off from now on).

On a tiny bit of a tangent there, this movie is set in late 19th century Italy, and has a ton of opera playing in the background and then over the ending credits. And it makes me think about how well-done opera communicates a story through emotion and performance. Good Shakespeare should be the same way, I think. Also, the opera really works with the whole setting and mood of the movie, which is rich and full of excess, what with the Duke’s palace and Titania’s court and all. Along with the costumes (which I loved), the music really sets the tone.

The pacing in this particular production is a little bit off in places. The forest scenes transitioned oddly to me, and speaking of transitions, the switch from dream-like forest escapades to the real world wedding soiree was rather abrupt. But other than transitions, only one thing really bugged me about the movie: the forest sets. They were very nice in some places, but in others they felt very stage-like and claustrophobic, as if all the action had to happen in a single space. Now, I’m all for stage productions of Shakespeare (so long as they don’t suck, but I’ll share my “worst Merchant of Venice stage production ever” story when we watch the movie), but the thing about making a movie is that you can make it feel expansive. You can build beyond the set and the stage. It works in some places in this version, but not in all, and that’s too bad.

Fortunately, my few small quibbles aren’t enough to make me dislike the movie. Not in the least. It was really a lovely version to watch and I enjoyed it and would recommend it without hesitation. Especially for Sam Rockwell.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)

May 14, 2010

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)

I’ve a great fondness for William Shakespeare in general and for this play in particular. As a high-school freshman I was part of a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. (I was one of two propmasters – not actually in the play.) The result of which is that I know the play pretty well – having read it in its entirety many a time and been part of many a full production.

The play has an awful lot going on though. I mean, Will really threw everything at this one. It has the A plot, which is the confusing tale of two couples and their love and disdain for one another. Which requires a flow chart to follow on its own. Then there’s the players and their farcical production of Pyramus and Thisbe. And there’s Oberon and Titania with their ongoing lovers’ quarrel and Bottom given the head of an ass. It’s all so ludicrous and silly. But, of course, that is the intent.

This production has moved the story from ancient Athens to the turn of the 19th century Italy. It tacks on a backstory for Nick Bottom which I don’t quite understand. And it uses a lot of opera for incidental music. It’s a very lush production but I can’t help feeling that it’s adding more confusion to an already overwrought creation. Still: the film does know where the best humor in the play comes from. Kevin Kline as Bottom is fantastic. Both as the overbearing diva in the player’s play within a play and as the ass that Titania falls in love with. Indeed they dedicate what feels like fully half of the final act to the play-within-a-play, which brings most of the real laughs in the movie (and unexpectedly a really great performance from Sam Rockwell, who is fast becoming one of my favorite comic performers.)

I’ll say that although I love Stanley Tucci I was not overly taken with his Puck. But I think that’s because there will probably never be a better cast Puck than Josh Tosteson, way back in high-school. He was simply playing himself I think, and it was pretty much perfect. The old trouble-maker. I wonder what he’s up to now. (I could find out if I bothered to go to my 20th reunion next month… but I’m disinclined to.)

May 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 3 Comments