A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

Genres - Comedy, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Romantic Fantasy  |   Release Date - May 14, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Brimming with fairies, sex, love potions, transformations, and slightly malevolent forays into matchmaking, A Midsummer Night's Dream leaves its interpreters with much to work with. Its already preposterous nature allows for quite a bit of tweaking, and the play has often fallen victim to ill-fated flights of directorial whimsy. Michael Hoffman, in an effort to showcase the decadent nature of A Midsummer Night's Dream, changed its original location in ancient Greece to a more sensual 19th century Italy, accomplishing little save for providing some gorgeous scenery and low-cut period costumes. Otherwise, the play was left to speak for itself by means of a stellar cast and its legendary playwright, William Shakespeare. Rupert Everett gives a delightfully brooding performance as Oberon, the fairy king, who sets the chaos in motion when he enchants his wife into falling in love with Nick Bottom (Kevin Kline), the aspiring thespian-turned-mule via one nasty potion. Kline, a Shakespearean veteran, shamelessly hams it up as the melodramatic Nick, while simultaneously imparting a buffoonish vulnerability. The forest setting is frenzied, wildly sexual, and arguably more hallucinatory than director Baz Luhrmann's modernized version of Romeo + Juliet. The best thing about Hoffman's take on A Midsummer Night's Dream, however, is his expert interweaving of the conventional and the outlandish. Though the film is traditional enough in its approach to use Felix Mendelssohn's classical compositions, as did director Max Reinhardt in his 1935 Hollywood version, it portrayed fairies as they were believed to be by Elizabethans: humorous, mischievous, sexual, and oftentimes up to no good. The surreal, sweaty atmosphere combined with giddy Elizabethan dialogue and one seriously lowbrow plot makes for a visually stimulating adventure and an irresistibly happy ending.