By: Alex Phuong (Three Beers)-
*Mild Language and Spoilers Ahead!*
The 1990s were an interesting era in film history because of Hollywood adaptations of British literature. Examples include The Remains of the Day (1993), Sense and Sensibility (1995), and Hamlet (1996). Given the acclaim that Shakespeare in Love acquired during its theatrical run in 1998, an all-star adaptation of a William Shakespeare comedic play might have sounded like a great idea in the minds of Hollywood producers. Unfortunately, the 1999 film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream does not exactly honor the legacy of one of William Shakespeare’s most iconic comedies.
One of the greatest features of this film is its all-star cast. That cast includes legendary stars like Michelle Pfeiffer and Oscar-winner Kevin Kline. This film also does its best to modernize the original play by trying to update it so that it would hopefully appeal to contemporary audiences. (Please note that one of the key words within that previous sentence is the word “try.”)
Sadly, this film tries too hard to make its overall aesthetic value look like a 19th century period drama. A similar criticism could be applied to the 1996 version of Hamlet (even though the latter film earned an Oscar nomination for its lavish production design). It is almost as if filmmakers in the 1990s were obsessed with the 19th century!
And even though he won an Oscar the first time around for his supporting role in A Fish Called Wanda (1988), Kevin Kline is not exactly the right actor to cast as Bottom (language and spoiler alert! a character who is more or less an “ass,” pun intended). Kevin Kline himself has said that he would have preferred to play the regal King Oberon instead of this pitiful character.
Just because a film has an all-star cast does not mean that it is a great film. One of the most notorious examples is the 2009 adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical Nine. And obviously, Shakespeare is an acquired taste (especially for people who struggle with understanding Shakespeare’s rhetorical language). Nevertheless, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a film that is still as powerful as its literary counterpart because of the fundamental idea that “the course of true love never did run smooth.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every magical moment created through Hollywood special effects
Drink a Shot: for every innuendo (many of which were part of William Shakespeare’s writing style)
And Cheers: for the notion that true love could still be found even though the course of true love does not always run smoothly