Michelle Pfeiffer

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Movie Review
'Midsummer' can't overcome dialogue

By Casey Hailey, CPNet Staff

The casting for the lush film production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was good, the cinematography was beautiful. But two hours and 10 minutes of seventeenth century English is enough to make even the biggest college Shakespeare fans glance at their watches, shift in their seats and consider sneaking over to catch the last part of "Notting Hill."

Don't get me wrong: For those who enjoy comparing the different ways Shakespeare can be played, the movie is definitely worth seeing. The script, although moderately rewritten by director Michael Hoffman, does justice to the First Folio text, and the production, as a whole is traditional in its presentation.

The rewrites make the dialogue a little more understandable, but viewers still have to pay close attention to catch the quick wit embedded in all the "ere's" and "unto thy's." Considering it takes most students one year, two professors and a good annotated version of the Bard's complete works before they even began to understand, much less enjoy the plays, it's highly unlikely that the average moviegoer can saunter in with no previous exposure to Elizabethan English and fully enjoy this movie.

Hoffman's production does live up to the movie poster's lush visual promises, though. The costumes are lavish and the setting is pastoral. For those who like period pieces, it is definitely worth the price of a matinee viewing.

And for once, the big-name actors whose performances usually disappoint when thrown into the same production, actually live up to their reputations. In fact, Stanley Tucci's Puck is my favorite yet. He plays the part with the perfect combination of mischief, arrogance, and meddlesome folly. (I've never cared for the malevolent, evil way that some have played Puck.)

Michelle Pfeiffer (Titania) with her exotic, dramatic beauty and Calista Flockhart (Helena) with her nymph-like frame and catty energy, fit their parts to a tee, as did the brooding Rupert Everett (Oberon). And Kevin Kline's performance strengthened his nomination as my favorite actor for his versatility.

All of these good points were not enough, though, to offset viewers' frustration with deciphering the long-lost language of the Elizabethan era. In fact, more than a few left their seats in the middle of the movie looking disgruntled. It was almost as if they could see the beauty and the humor right in front of them, but couldn't access it. It's kind of like watching a 3-D movie without the special glasses: The movie is magnificent to those that have them, but to those who don't, it's all a blur.