Apologies for lateness on this post. The first DVD I checked out from the library was so scratched you couldn’t get to the menu. Luckily, they had another copy so we are not without some fun viewing. So take a look at the trailer and then continue on to the review.
The cast for this one is actually pretty impressive with a lot of big names, or people who I now recognize and love and had no clue who they were when this film originally came out. So let’s just go through the stand outs. Rubert Everett and Michelle Pfiefer make an excellent Oberon and Titania, with Everett using all of his brooding powers to his advantage and it takes no imagination at all to believe she’s a fairy queen because she’s just gorgeous. Callista Flockhart is Helena and she actually manages to make a character who comes off as a bit of a doormat on the page into a sympathetic character with some gumption (of course, that could just be the bicycle – more on those later). Anna Friel is Hermia (awww Chuck! before she was Chuck! And if you have no clue what I’m talking about go watch Pushing Daisies right now, Shakespeare would totally approve) and is of course adorable. She also rocks some pretty awesome hats. Christian Bale plays Demetrius and he’s all young and adorable and his look is a little reminscent of when he played Laurie in Little Women (which is a big part of why I love Christian Bale). Sophie Marceau plays Hippolyta (who in this film has lost the whole Amazon queen thing, sadly). Kevin Kline manages to keep Bottom from being too annoying and actually makes him mildly sympathetic which is hard when the character is such an ass (oh, I’m so funny). Last but not least, Stanley Tucci is Puck, which might seem an odd choice (or am I the only one that thinks Puck should be hot?). I actually went into this film (which I watched the first time when I was 12 or 13) convinced that Rupert Everett played Puck (I’m still convinced he could have done an awesome job with it too, based on his roles in The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband). But of course, Stanley Tucci is charming and sweet and knocks it out of the park like he always does.
The first thing to talk about with this film is the time period chosen. There is some text just prior to the title card that puts the film in Italy (although the town is still referred to as Athens) “at the turn of the 19th century.” I find that phrase problematic (my brain thinks it means late 1700s-early 1800s) but that could just be my issues with numbers, so to clarify, the film is set in the late 1800s/19th century. There’s then another text card mentioning the decline of the bustle which has allowed for the increased popularity of that new device, the bicycle. And bicycles are used a lot in this film. All four lovers head off into the woods with one (although none of them leave with one, so apparently fairies really like bicycles). The costumes for the mortals are all really gorgeous. Even the guys have rocking suits (and they wear tails for the wedding!). The fairies are a little odder in dress but they must order gold body glitter in bulk because every single one of them wears some.
The film deals pretty well with all of the craziness. They use cuts and some special effects to make the fairies more magical (when they go any great distance, they turn into tiny golden fairy lights). While it’s very easy to tell that “the woods” are definitely sets, they’re so pretty, you don’t really mind. My only big complaint with this film is that it literally has a chick fight in a mud pit. Hermia and Helena deserve so much better. However, when the two young couples are found by Theseus, they’re all naked which means there were some shots of Christian Bale’s abs, so I’ll forgive the mud fight. But just barely.
The play at the end of the film is actually pretty entertaining, with the best performance coming from Sam Rockwell who makes Thisbe’s death scene so sympathetic. Also, Kevin Kline hams it up in his death scene and is probably at his most entertaining during this part of the film (as partial as I am to ass jokes).
Of course, Stanley Tucci rocks Puck’s closing speech, breaking the fourth wall easily and without any awkwardness. He definitely makes the film worth watching (if Christian Bale’s abs don’t get you, of course).
I’m taking one of my six weeks off from reading Shakespeare next week, but there will still be a blog post next Wednesday with a special treat for you. Because you can’t go an entire week without a good dose of Shakespeare.