Alright, so full disclosure, I can’t say that I am the biggest Shakespeare fan. This is likely due to the fact that I’m not overly familiar with his work. Yes, yes, I’ve been to school and I’ve read the likes of Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet. Even seem more than a few films on the man’s work. ROMEO & JULIET (1996) and (1968), and some of HAMLET (1970). I’ve even taken acting classes and acted out a scene from this very play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If memory serves, I was Demetrius being pursued by… Helena, I want to say? Anyway, I’m no stranger to the man’s work, but let’s face it, Elizabethan English is very much an acquired taste, and unless you’re really into that sort of thing and enjoy how it rolls off the tongue (which I do not), then he’s not going to be for everybody. You’ll never hear me argue with an actor or a English major who likes that stuff, but I’m not on that band wagon.
With that said, I have the utmost respect for anyone who can pull it off. Elizabethan isn’t easy to make sound natural and requires talent, and that’s the bare minimum requirement if you ask me. To pull it off as well as some actors, it requires enormous patience and precision. Honestly, I get a little jealous, and because I’m an insecure little Peruvian butt-wipe, I always find myself getting snarky and calling those actors the vegans of acting: I get it, you’re better than me, stop showing off, let me act in my mindless action and modern profanities.
Anyway, full disclaimer, I never read the entirety of Midsummer, so I don’t know the full story very well. It’s obviously taking place in modern day and looks like it’s about a pair of lovers who seem to be… not entirely in love with each other and… due to some curse, their true feelings surface and their affairs become chaotic. I don’t know, man, the language barrier drives me nuts.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Fran Kranz (THE DARK TOWER , CABIN IN THE WOODS , and the upcoming WHY NOT CHOOSE LOVE: A MARY PICKFORD MANIFESTO ), Lily Rabe (PAWN SACRIFICE , and upcoming films BACKSEAT  and FINDING STEVE MCQUEEN ), Finn Wittrock (LANDLINE , LA LA LAND , THE BIG SHORT , and upcoming films JUDY  and IN BEALE STREET COULD TALK ), Ted Levine (JURASSIC WORLD 2 , BLEED FOR THIS , and upcoming films STARBRIGHT  and A VIOLENT SEPARATION ), and Rachael Leigh Cook (a ton of voice work for Final Fantasy video games as Tifa Lockhart)
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Casey Wilder Mott, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Co-composing the score, whom also have roles in the film as well, are Mia Doi Todd (debut; congrats, miss) and Saul Williams, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Daniel Katz, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of, and upcoming films TAIPEI (2018) and THREE SECONDS (2018). Finally, co-editing are Curtiss Clayton and Saul Herckis, both known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of.
Overall, I wager this movie won’t be for me. The language barrier is going to drive me up the walls and as a result, I’m likely going to have a frustrating time with this, especially since I doubt it’s going to be in subtitles… which would be stupid, I know, but can we all just admit that I’m an uneducated bloke and move on with our day? I admit, that the energy from the actors makes this look funny, but I guess we’ll see.
This is my honest opinion of: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Set in modern day Los Angeles. Hermia (Rachael Leigh Cook) is a popular actress in Athens (Hollywood), but is about to be forced to marry the successful and rich Demetrius (Finn Wittrock), whom she doesn’t love, and would rather be with the man she does, photographer Lysander (Hamish Linklater). But while Demetrius is in love with Hermia, Hermia’s best friend Helena (Lily Rabe) is in love with Demetrius. One night, Lysander proposes to Hermia to run away with him to be together. Knowing of the romantic rendezvous, Helena decides to tell Demetrius, who angrily decides to attempt to break them up, while Helena follows behind to win him back. All four eventually lost in the woods, nearby, a sorcerer named Oberon (Saul Williams) and his mischievous friend Puck (Avan Jogia) accidentally make their situations even worse by accidentally casting a love spell on both Lysander and Demetrius to fall for Helena.
Well, I have to admit, this was a lot more than I thought it was going to be.
The primary source of my enjoyment is, weirdly enough, a technique that I should be more than familiar with, but it’s the actors that really sell the story and the language. The barrier will always naturally be there, so I couldn’t follow every single thing that happened, but thanks to the actors being very expressive, vocally and facially, I got a really good sense of the story. Like I said, anyone who can make the Elizabethan language sound natural deserves a lot of credit. So yes, I’m raving about the actors.
But I want to especially rave about Rabe as Helena. This girl is an absolute peach. Dear God, I love how she plays up the desperately in love woman. I know this is in the trailer, but I adore how when Demetrius is walking back in her direction, she reaches out for him in a loving fashion, only for him to lock his car door, and then chases after him as he walks away. As over the top as her reactions are, and as much as she is in desperate need of someone to tell her that there’s plenty of fish in the sea, I admit to wanting to see how her strategies would change in order to win over Demetrius. She is so cute, but seriously needs a therapist and I loved it.
And I won’t lie, I got a lot of enjoyment out of Puck. This dude seems like he was enjoying himself a little too much screwing around with everyone that he comes by. Turning Bottom’s (Daniel Katz) face into a pair of butt-cheeks and making Titania (Mai Doi Todd) fall in love with him. Bizarre shit, but worth a couple of chuckles.
But I do have a few gripes that I’d like to address.
For one thing, ever since binge watching all of the Mission: Impossible movies (keep an eyes out for those reviews the week of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT ), I’ve learned that I absolutely despise future scenes being spoiled in the movie. I know, they’re not technically spoiling, but it takes me way the hell out of it. It’s like this story wants zero surprises, and I really hate when choices like this are made. I’m sure the play does this, verbally telling audiences the endgame, but this is why different adaptations are made: to make improvements on what’s flawed!
Also, I really don’t know why the whole “filmmaking crew” stuff was in this movie at all, with Bottom making a movie with Quince (Charity Wakefield). It felt really unnecessary and ultimately didn’t seem to contribute much to the plot, other than the supposed “humiliation” of Titania sleeping with Bottom and his deformed face, which she won’t ultimately remember anyway, nor was she having a problem with it as it was happening. It all just seemed like an excuse to make an amateur film combining Star Wars with the story of Pyramus and Thisbie. Cute as it was, it’s pure fluff. If these characters and their subplot have more significance to the play, then it’s not well-translated in this movie and felt like the movie was holding me hostage for an extra fifteen minutes.
And the constant red lighting in the woods was starting to give me a headache. I don’t know, the shifting brightness made my eyes kind of hurt. I’m sure it was supposed to be symbolic of something, but I really with the filmmakers hadn’t done that. Just thinking about it makes it hurt.
Overall, I was surprised with how much fun I had with this. By no means perfect, and some elements are downright useless to the presented story, but the comedy mostly came through, especially Rabe, making Helena my favorite character, making this a solid viewing. As a recommendation, I say it’s worth checking out. But remember, it’s in the Elizabethan language, so if that’s not your thing, this won’t exactly change your mind. I have no idea what actual Shakespeare fans would think of this, but as an average dude who doesn’t go out of his way to read this sort of thing, it wasn’t half bad. It’s likely going to be a pretty hard find, so if you can’t find it in your local cinema, then I recommend it as a rental.
My honest rating for A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: a strong 3/5
This week’s review:
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION
- SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
- EIGHTH GRADE
- DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
Next week’s reviews:
- THE EQUALIZER 2
- MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN
- UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB
- PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997)