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October 1999

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Stacey Kimball reviews A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream** A fairy tale Quarreling fairies and mistaken identities shape Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Young Hermia (Anna Friel) has been promised to Demetrius (Christian Bale), but she’s in love with Lysander (Dominic West). When Hermia must choose between Demetrius, the nunnery or death, she and Lysander flee into the woods. Demetrius, who is worshipped by Helena (Calista Flockhart), follows Hermia with love-struck Helena hot on his heels. The four find themselves near the secret home of the fairies, as does Bottom (Kevin Kline), a hammish actor. When the King of the Fairies, Oberon (Rupert Everett), argues with his queen, Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer), chaos breaks out. Oberon enlists Puck (Stanley Tucci), to drop a love potion into her eyes as she sleeps. The tonic is intended to make her fall in love with the first person she sees upon waking. Oberon tells Puck to treat Demetrius’ eyes, too, but the plan goes awry, resulting in rather unexpected romantic romping. Indeed, Shakespeare is back. But director Michael Hoffman (One Fine Day) has turned a classic play into an unintelligible, lackluster film. The foam rubber fairy kingdom looks like it was built by a bankrupt high school drama club. The stellar cast suffers from lethargic direction. Pfeiffer and Kline are underwhelming. While Flockhart is palatable as the high-strung Helena, the film is nonetheless a flop. Luckily, the puck stops here.

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