Old English as a Second Language
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Review by Ross Anthony

I've not hidden my indifference to Shakespeare in the past, so why do it now? Additionally, this seems as good a time as any to explain why. First of all, I go to movies (or plays) to be entertained. That's the premo reason, if I'm nudged to think or learn something -- great, but I've got to be entertained. Shakespearean presentations have seldom amused me in the past. What enjoyment I take from them, I feel as though I must painfully extract by listening so intensely acute to each word and twist of words to find that ironic chime, that back-flipping pun, that sharply bitter double-edged phrase that slices a sweetly sour realization in my brain. When "I get it" it's good. And I'm sure there's so many more juicy whammy's to "get", and that's precisely why I feel frustrated and worn out by these presentations. "Oh just give me Bruce Willis with an automatic weapon!" I cry in exhaustion.

Now, that's not to say "Shakespeare sucks!", no. In fact, I think I may even be saying, "Shakespeare (in this day and age) is way too clever for a two hour presentation." There are so many plays on words and devilishly chosen couplings of utterances, that it seems one has no chance of absorbing them all. I find it simply overwhelming, dare I say overbearing in a showing.

Perhaps, on paper... unraveling at my own pace, not the directors. Like the poetry that it is, perhaps with the time to ruminate at my necessity, then I might be able to better enjoy the embedded whit.

Alas, I'm not reviewing this extended poem on parchment -- I'm reviewing a film on the same screen that I see flicks like "T2", "The Matrix", and "The Titanic." In that vain, I found the language tedious. It's like re-writing "When Harry Met Sally" in pig-Latin. Why make this 20th century audience work so hard to de-code the presentation? I think there are those (perhaps many) who have mastered this pseudo foreign language of Shakespeare. For them, they may very well delight in "hearing this play." But for me, I felt like a kid on the outside of the club house looking in -- and not seeing anything through the window that made me feel like I was missing out.

Synopsis: Helena, faced with death or marriage to a rich geek, runs into the forest with her love. The geek and the women who loves him chase after. Mischievous fairy fireflies drop magic love potions into their eyes as they sleep, but this mis-directs their love. It's a rather simple soap-opera type plot that depends on the coded dialogue to soar. The saga resolves slightly earlier than expected, leaving time for a purposely horrible theatric-sketch with which to amuse the duke and duchess. This piece is completely wonderful. It's Shakespeare poking fun of the bad writers and actors of his time, but at least it wasn't so thickly encoded. I was able to "get it" and laugh along with Shakespeare. Unfortunately, it was the only time in the picture where I felt much of anything emotional.

To be fair, I screened the picture with a lover of Shakespeare (a knower of the club-house password). In his words, "It was a lovely production -- not spectacular or daring, but lovely."

Starring Anna Friel and Christian Bale, Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Stanley Tucci and Calista Flockhart.
Screenplay and Directed by Michael Hoffman.
Produced by Leslie Urdang and Micheael Hoffman at Fox Searchlight/Regency/Tauraus Films.


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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:02:58 PDT