A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999) Poster

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One Movie Buff's Opinion
Daniel Halton Billings12 December 2004
I have seen criticism of this movie saying that the language should have been changed to our post-modern English instead of being the original late-middle/early modern English that Shakespeare used. But those who say that miss the point that what makes these plays so magnificent IS the language that Shakespeare used, and to change it would be to ruin the movie.

Anyways, the acting is marvelous, as it should be from such a cast as this. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the part of Titania with the utmost perfection. Kevin Kline as Nick Bottom is equally as good, and the two end up having a chemistry that is unmistakable (even if he is an ass at this point).

The directing is also great - almost as good as the acting, if not as good. Costumes, sets, everything with exception of there being headlights on the bicycles, is perfect. Michael Hoffman truly pulled of a great feat with this movie, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Also, on a side note, if you have trouble understanding the language, though it be English, watch the DVD and turn on the subtext.
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Excellent Job of a Difficult Task
tvsterling25 July 2004
I'm a professional live theatre stagehand. People who are too centered on movies will have a hard time with this picture. If you could see the original first run performance of this play in Elizabethan England you would think you had stumbled into an over-costumed poetry reading. If the movie is hard to follow try & imagine what viewing that play would be like. It is the measure of Shakespeare's greatness that now 400 years later & in a medium born of photography that this greatest of fantasies still rings true. Try to show some respect; Shakespeare defined modern English. In comparing the lines to the original I thought that the adaptation was sensitive & well thought out. Simplified to fit the film medium but not sacrificing any of the truly great lines that actors drool over. The fairy world sets seemed cramped to me & reminded me of Cocteau's Beauty & the Beast. I personally found the setting of the movie in turn of century Italy kind of fun. Resetting Shakespeare in times & places other than he wrote is pretty much standard practice. The bicycles & the phonographs were amusing to me & generated some fun business for the actors. Kevin Kline was excellent as the ass. He got you to sympathize not pity or deride. In fact the whole amateur troop was memorable. Stanley Tucci was the quintessential Puck. Calista Flockhart threw everything including the kitchen sink into her part. Don't accuse her of overacting though; you'll only give away that you have never been deeply in love. Michelle Pfeiffer was radioactive beautiful, probably fatal closer than ten feet. Rupert Everett maintained perfect believability in a difficult part which is essentially support for Puck. As an answer to anyone who thought that things were a bit oversexed. The Renaissance was all about the rediscovery of the fact that people are noble & beautiful, not sinful & ugly. Shakespeare was one of the greatest products of the Renaissance. The movie is true to those Renaissance ideals. To sum up; a class act & class acts are not for everybody.
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Surprisingly faithful adaptation
Liza-1919 October 2004
As a general rule, I normally don't post comments unless I have enough time to write a thorough review, and have given it much thought before hand. I'm sorry, but even though it's 2am, I can't bear to go to sleep and let the review before me just sit there. Obviously the reviewer before me seems to have no idea that the complicities that arise from the various plots go back to Shakespeare himself - and it is a great achievement by this film to manage to keep all the plates spinning and all the stories interesting.

I am amazed by this film. I am a life-long Shakespeare fan and it's great to see a faithful American production. The British/American cast all worked fantasically well together - Christian Bale, Anna Friel, Dominic West, and Calista Flockheart were all perfectly cast as the four lovers. The fairies and the actors both worked very well to frame the story - and the director has managed to keep it both visually unique and incredibly entertaining.

I'm not quite sure why they decided to change the location from Greece to Italy, but in an age where Kenneth Branagh is trying to make a 1940s musical out of Love's Labour's Lost, I say, the changes could be a lot worse. All in all, this is a very impressive adaptation. I'm just happy to see that Shakespeare hasn't lost his appeal to modern audiences.
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Visually stunning, a little stilted, but a must see!
TheLittleSongbird26 May 2009
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a very complicated play, and can get very silly at times, and this film is surprisingly faithful to the play. Yes, there was an attempt to partially modernise it, therefore the script wasn't as good as it could have been. The film itself is lovingly designed, with lavish costumes, stunning sets(my favourite being the wood set) and handsome cinematography. The music was lovely with clever use of music by the likes of Mendelssohn and Verdi. I thought the acting was very good indeed, Kevin Kline stealing the show as Bottom, most of the time hilarious, especially in the play scene, when we are shown what a bad actor Bottom really is. Michelle Pfeiffer is lovely also, and Rupert Everett is very charming also as Oberon. Callista Flockhart convinces also as Helena, and Stanley Tucci has a ball as Puck. The direction is competent, but my only other criticism is that the film is a little overlong. Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this film, not as good as Much Ado About Nothing(with Kenneth Branagh) or Macbeth (with Jon Finch), so I will happily award it 8/10. Bethany Cox.
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Charming Fairy Dust
mermatt14 May 1999
Though some critics have dumped on this film, I was charmed by it. The movie literally sparkles. The settings are full of rich colors and magical lighting. The romantic classical music is all well chosen to help induce the hypnotic or dreamlike qualities. And the cast is an utter delight.

This is a fluffy cloud of fairy dust -- just as Shakespeare intended.
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artzau2 April 2001
This is a wonderful film and an excellent version of the classic that was done so very, very well in 1935 and 1968. No, this is not the Royal Shakespeare Company, it's Hollywood but damn good Hollywood. Why? How can canned commercial movie-making compete with the Bard's best? Why does this version make that of the RSC three years before PALE? Well, there's the cast, for one. Stanley Tucci is delightful as a drole erring Puck carrying out the directives of Rupert Everett's pompous Oberon. The delightful Cast of Players, including Rockwell, Irwin, Rees, Wright and (tah-DAH!) Kevin Klein as Bottom. The scenes with the lovelier than lovely Michelle Pfeiffer's Titania are wonderful and poignant. It is delightful to see that gentle erotica can be suggested without nudity or slathering tongues, sucking lips as well as the usual grunts-pants-moans, etc. The lovers are likewise delightful with great, fun-packed performances by Christian Bale's Demetrius and Dominic West's Lysander in complete tune with Anna Fiel's Hermia and Calista Flockhart's Helena. Even David Strathairn's Theseus and Sophie Marceau's Hippolyta are wonderful. The story is moved from Athens Greece to Athens, Italy, at the turn of the 19th century with the lovers escaping on bicycles. Stanley Tucci's confrontation with the bike is a delight. This is a wonderful film with some new twists that depart from but do not detract from the Bard. The bit with Kevin Kline's wife, hard-looking but attractive Heather Parisi, works well with the setting of this fun-filled, joyful presentation.
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A True Gem
Doug Phillips19 May 1999
Having read other reviews of this film that whine about the scenery, Kevin Kline, etc., I have to say that I have no complaints.

Obviously they do not remember that the sets that are unreal are supposed to be unreal -- this is supposed to be the realm of the fairies.

The scenes that are supposed to be set in reality are VERY real -- and quite beautiful.

The scenes that are set in unreality are VERY unreal --and quite beautiful.

Calista Flockheart did an admirable job as the always forlorn Helena.

Stanley Tucci as Puck was an absolute delight.

Rupert Everett as the King of the Fairies..... well, it isn't exactly a stretch.

Kevin Kline did NOT steal the movie -- he was but a part of an ensemble.

With the exception of Michelle Pfeiffer every one in the cast knew what their lines meant and delivered them appropriately.

Titania's first speech is simply words being repeated by rote -- could have been better.

I truly enjoyed this film -- it is a good introduction to Shakespeare for those that are not familiar with him.

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Great Entertainment
birdmuse23 July 2005
I'm amazed at all of the negative critics out there. I guess there is no accounting for self-styled esoteric esoteric bozos. It is beautifully filmed with an outstanding and sensitive cast(Calista Flockhart has Shakespearian experience, and it shows). We need to remember that first ,last, and always Shakespeare is entertainment meant to be seen and enjoyed, not analysed to death.. When he is stylized into oblivion by myopic critics the very essence and greatness of his genius is lost. This is an extremely pleasant way to introduce yourself and/or children to the wondrous magic of Shakespeare and even better if you do a little plot research. Spectacular performance except for those with scales on their eyes.
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very nice to look at
andre-719 August 2000
I admit, that I have not read the play, so probably all of the credit for the idea goes to Shakespeare himself. But I was also caught by the magic of the pictures. The actors and actresses were so pretty, the story so nicely recited, and the atmosphere somehow magically ravishing. I got a lot of positive feelings out of this movie, and when I walk through the forest now, I am reminded of them. Well, this film did leave a wonderful trace in my mind. Hopefully, it lasts for a couple of days. I give it an 8/10.
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Gorgeous film not bad Shakespeare adaptation
Dan Franzen (dfranzen70)20 February 2000
There have been many adaptations of Shakespeare plays over the last decade or so, most of them aimed squarely at younger viewers. You know the drill: The director picks out rocking, hip tunes to spice up the soundtrack and some hot, young stars to broadly interpret the Bard's work.

That's not the case here. Kevin Kline gets to ham it up as Nick Bottom, the base mechanical with delusions of thespian grandeur, and Michelle Pfeiffer gets to show off her own acting chops as Titania, the Queen of the fairies. Okay, so maybe a little knowledge of the play itself would help the average viewer, but if you're not a fan of the play, you can still witness some absolutely sumptuous camerawork and some funny, funny scenes - many of them dealing with the spellbound Bottom, who's been turned into a jackass. Stanley Tucci underplays (somewhat surprisingly) his role as the mischievous Puck, and even Callista Flockhart turns in a solid performance as one of four human (non-fairy) lovers.
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Good and Bad
Taigan1 June 1999
To begin with, I confess that in any production of MSND I see I'm focusing almost entirely on the Rude Mechanicals (here, Kevin Kline and co.) For the most part, I thought they were great. But I, like many others, was put off by the focus on Nick Bottom. This is not supposed to be a three-dimensional character, let alone a sympathetic one. He was designed to be a joke, even his name (Bottom. Ass. Donkey, get it?) Where it went right was showing just how out of their league the poor slobs were. From the cutaway to the "Green Room" where these few men in street clothes are surrounded by acrobats, fire-eaters, etc, to the huge Opera house audience.

Then the play itself was masterfully executed. I was a little put off by Peter Quince shouting out the "right" lines from offstage, (that's not in the play), but it did help make clear some jokes. I loved how they made the Moon's part improved. Most of all, I loved what they did with "Thisbe" at the end! I've never seen it done that way before and if you asked me, I would have said it wouldn't work. But it was great! My only problem was that they should have then cut the Duke's derisive line "Wall and Lion are left to bury the dead." It detracted. As for the rest, nothing that hasn't been said already. Calista Flockhart was appropriate, Stanley Tucci was amusing, Michelle Pfeiffer delivered her lines with feeling, yet the feeling seemed disconnected from what she was saying. The bicycle theme lost me, and I'd like to see at least one production of MSND actually set in ancient Athens. Overall a good film. You should see it, but maybe wait till it's the second-run theaters.
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Path of this movie had difficulty running smoothly
Lil'Girl20 May 1999
I personally didn't mind the movie. It was for the most part mildly entertaining but it certainly wasn't great Shakespeare.

The movie, I suspect, lacks conviction and chemistry between actors. It was quite difficult to have any real sympathy with any of the main characters as they often went as quickly as they came. Choosing to set the film in the nineteenth century was rather bizarre especially with all the references to Greek mythology.

For more energetic Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing wins hands down.
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Patchy but fun
Ripe Peach24 February 2001
This is a rather muddled production, with an erratic tone and (in the video version I have seen) poor sound mixing. Michelle Pfieffer in particular seems uncomfortable making long speeches, and David Strathairn as Theseus seems to be in a different movie. Also, Dream has always been a hard piece to film, being over long with many subplots and changes of pace (plus that Shakespeare favourite, a play within a play).

That said, there's much to like here. The sets and camera work are sound - there's a nicely judged fun and sexy undertone to the whole production, the fairy scenes being particularly aesthetically pleasing.

Stanley Tucci plays Puck tolerably well, neither too comic nor too ironic. Rupert Everett makes a powerful, sensitive Oberon, and Kevin Kline aquits himself well as comedic support (and he would be well advised to stick to such part rather than embarrasing himself in straight pieces like The Ice Storm). The minor players make a good fist of things, and the surprise of the piece is Callista Flockhart who is unexpectedly convincing and winning as Helena, especially considering that I can't stand her portrayal of Ally McBeal.

Not great, but not at all bad either, and it's easy to do this play very badly indeed.
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I know Shakespeare. This is NOT Shakespeare.
cupcake-818 May 1999
I'm a trained actor too, and I know Shakespeare. This is NOT good Shakespeare. Prancing around melodramatically, overacting, and slapstick comedy are signs that the actors and director do NOT understand the subtleties of Shakespearean dialog. Midsummer is actually a deep play, a very dark and poignant satire. This version is just plain junk.
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Neither smart nor inspiring.
filmfan-217 May 1999
Who greenlighted this thing, Kevin Kline? I wouldn't be surprised, seeing how the movie focuses almost entirely on him, at the expense of the play's more interesting younger characters. In this age of inspired young, smart, sexy Shakespeare films, this "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is neither smart nor inspiring. Here, while horribly mismatching the ages of the story's characters (Helena is older than Oberon!), the director squanders a great opportunity to adapt the play for today's audience. And what's up with this 19th century thing? Let's hope the next version of the "Dream" is better.
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Delightful with excellent presentation
Scroll Master21 May 2005
Delightful I found this film to be. Most excellent is found the directing, as was delivered the acting, costuming, and blending of effects. Dialogue to Shakespeare true was unaffectedly and rapidly delivered. Also excellent was found the setting's choice, and in appearance most fanciful was made the "green world" of Shakespeare. Creatures exotic, exciting, and sensual did it contain. Most joyous did I find missing the darkness, British, that often so obliterates life from Shakespeare's plays that in the tombs are they found wallowing. Tis fact that so exceedingly alive was Shakespeare in life that jousting verbal and words played-on his hallmark were, and of them attention acute and contemplation deep are required. Well done!
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Are they kidding?
Doctor-318 May 1999
I feel like I am the victim of some terrible practical joke. Why on earth did I waste nine dollars on this movie? How can Fox pass this off as 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' with a straight face? They managed to remain true to the Shakespearean language while completely massacring its deeper meanings. To place the name 'William Shakepeare's' before the title of this movie is an insult to the best writer in history.
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A great classic Shakespeare film!
Syl7 December 2005
I believe that this film version of William Shakespeare's classic, "A Midsummer's Night Dream" is better than the 1968 Royal Shakespeare film version. Now I am not saying that the acting is much better, it could fare better with this cast like Kevin Kline, Michael Tucci, Calista Flockhart, Michelle Pfeiffer, David Straitharn, and others to mention. The quality of this film is superior to the 1968 version starring Dame Judi Dench C.H., Dame Diana Rigg C.B.E., and Dame Helen Mirren. The quality is shown by the location, costumes, and the expense it took to make this film look first rate. It tries to be faithful to the text and I believe it is more than satisfactory. I hope this film version is shown in schools because I believe that if you are going teach Shakespeare that you should do both comedy and tragedy. His comedies like "Much Ado About Nothing" and "A Midsummer's Night Dream" shows Shakespeare's sense of humor and playfulness with the living as opposed to watching a tragedy. Most high schools are working on the tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar but I think they should also do one comedy for each tragedy than maybe students would not cringe with distaste over doing Shakespeare at all. I gave it a 9 because I think the acting could have been better or improved.
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Delightful--Shakespeare for Dummies
grandfunkfan3 December 2005
I somehow managed to get through high school without being forced to read most of the classic stories that so many students dread and fear based on hand-me-down horror stories from siblings and friends. Later in life, natural curiosity drove me on several occasions to force myself to enjoy the great works of literature. Usually I was so lost in trying to translate the jargon or the author's intent, that I could never enjoy the story. My choice of watching A Midsummer Night's Dream was inspired by a recent trip to Barnes & Noble. As planned, I met my 14-year-old daughter at the checkout line carrying my usual stack of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Mystery stories, while she had chosen for her reading pleasure several Shakespearean works. I told her that I was very pleased with her fondness of reading. Regardless of the material, reading is generally better, i.e., thought provoking, than watching a movie. This delightful movie, however, made it possible to enjoy the Bard's magnificent story telling ability without a translator. There was sufficient Shakespearean dialogue to make me pause the DVD a few times for thought, but generally the story flowed with enough vitality to entertain as the thoughts and inspirations of human foibles were driven deeper into my subconscious for later analysis. The only shortcoming is I can't say, "I liked the book better than the movie."
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An intolerably poor movie.
lou-487 May 1999
An intolerably poor movie. I can't believe I wasted two hours of my life watching this. Hoffmann has no vision here, except for the nonsensical concept of the "bicycle," which has no place in this story. Hoffmann has been quoted as saying that he chose to "embrace" the theatrical aspects of the piece, rather than actually bothering to adapt it for the medium of film, which is painfully obvious. Ignoring the satirical and dramatic aspects of the original play, he instead turns this version into a drudgingly long piece of slapstick about a troupe of actors led by Bottom (Kevin Kline), here inexplicably elevated to the story's central role. Kline played a major part in getting this vanity project off the ground, and it shows. The play's principal roles of Lysander, Hermia, and Demetrius are reduced to indistinguishable supporting characters who deliver stilted, "Shakespearean" performances that they clearly do not understand. Even worse, the "magical" world of the fairies, shot entirely on a very obvious soundstage, comes off as wooden and contrived. How Searchlight convinced so many A-list actors to appear in this film may go down as one of the mysteries of the ages. Of all the film adaptations of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," including the awful 1996 British version, this is by far the poorest. If you plan to stand in line at the movies over the next month or two, then for heaven's sake, see Star Wars.
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Big Budget High School Drama
alfa-166 June 2000
The cast, lost in the forest, and the director all at sea. this feels rushed and shows little understanding of all but the mechanical comedy. I have seen 12 year old Titanias and Helenas who understood and delivered their lines better. Pfeiffer throws almost everything away. Flockhart has one note and two expressions. Have a look at the way actors in a Branagh, Olivier or a McKellen adaptation communicate the sense of the verse with gesture, tone and expression and compare that with what goes on here - or rather doesn't go on here.

The totally reliable David Strathairn as Theseus looks like the captain of sinking ship, standing on the bridge, amazed at the dismal failure of his crew and I swear that glint in Stanley Tucci's eye at the end is saying "Wait till I get hold of my agent".

It's not all bad and I've seen worse (though certainly not from Michelle Pfeiffer) but whimsy is not the same as humour, and if you're acting Shakespeare and you don't understand what you're saying, then neither will your audience.

Not for scholars. Look elsewhere.
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I hoped for something better
David-2777 May 1999
I SO wanted to like this film... but I just could not bring myself to enjoy it. Tedious, slow, overdone, and childish. Thumbs down, sadly.
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darthsnoopy6 April 2003
Wow... that person who gave it "zero stars out of ****" is a little confused... though not without entertainment value. His comment "Shakespeare would have been apalled" is laughable. why? Because most of his whining was about the plot itself. Does he not realize that Shakespeare WROTE the play A Midsummer Night's Dream, and that that makers of the movie followed the original play TO THE WORD, except for a few dialogue cuts that didn't affect plot? And then he went on to whine about how frivolous and silly the plot is...

you know what? All of Shakespeare's comedy plots are silly and frivolous. That's the point. Remember, in his time, he wasn't an intellectual mastermind... he was an entertainer for the masses. He gave the playgoers what they wanted in his plays, whether comedy, tragedy, or history- and what they wanted was love, mistaken identity, gratuitous violence, a few laughs, and to be entertained. Yes, he was a great playwright. One of the first, in fact, to really give changeability to his characters. Most writers of his time used purely stock characters. Good guys, bad guys, drunk guys, slutty chicks, virtuous chicks, idiots, smart guys... but never 3-dimensional characters. This is what Shakespeare changed. He created 3-D, CHANGEABLE characters.

And don't start on "Oh, you are being shallow". Shakespeare DID put a lot of deeper meanings and metaphore into his plays- but that DID come secondary to entertainment. And even his great plays like Hamlet and Macbeth, with some serious psychological "WTF???" going on, were pretty contrived. I mean, the end of Hamlet involves four dead bodies on the stage, mostly due to mix ups (Hamlet gets stabbed by Laertes' poisoned sword, they keep fighting and manage to switch swords, Laertes gets stabbed with his OWN sword, the queen drinks the poisoned wine meant for Hamlet, then warns him, and he stabs the king AND makes him drink the poisoned wine. Nevermind Ophelia's previous suicide because Hamlet was pretending to be insane, Polonius getting stabbed by Hamlet because Hamlet thought he was the evil king, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern dying in Hamlet's place when they were sent to get him killed, and of course, the death of Hamlet's own father by having poison poured in his ear) So don't start bashing the filmmakers. You said the only good thing they did was the atmosphere... but really, that's all that was left up to them- the presentation. The play was already written, the characters already created, the plot already silly and Chick Flick-y. Sorry. That idiotic "Shakespeare would be apalled" thing just bothers me. I mean, he wrote the fricking thing. So, the only conclusion I can draw from this inane and snooty review is that, like many others, the complexity of the play and its many subplots confused the hell out of you (May I say something about attention spans here??), so you tried to turn it around and blame it on someone else because you're too much of a dolt to figure out what's going on.

Ok, having ranted- I'll make this brief. A Midsummer Night's Dream is like a comedy-chick flick with the added advantage of a cool atmosphere and Shakespeare's poetic dialogue. It's a funny romantic comedic fantasy. If you like that sort of thing, see it. If you don't, then don't. And for God's sake, if you can't understand that dialogue, don't blame it on the filmmakers. There ARE people out there who DO understand it, you know.
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Wake me when it's over
smck23 May 1999
If you've never seen "A Midsummer Night's Dream," this is probably as good an introduction as any.But it's a bit heavy-handed, not particularly funny, and downright ponderous at times. Rupert Everett and Michelle Pfeiffer are most successful and seem to be having a terrific time as the king and queen of fairies; elsewhere the likes of John Sessions, Max Wright, Sam Rockwell, Roger Rees and Gregory Jbara make the most of their limited screen time. The lovers are a bit bland (and a miscast Calista Flockhart would have made a much better "Hermia") and Stanley Tucci is..uh..puckish (if nothing else) as "Puck" but the real disaster is the "Bottom" of Kevin Kline. It would appear to be the perfect match, but it is a wearisome, uninventive performance. This is supposed to be FUN!
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admirable work
Armand29 May 2014
it is not easy to surprise with a Shakespeare adaptation. and this film is a courageous act in this sense. but, scene after scene, it becomes more. the secret - deep respect for text, the splendid performance, the interesting solutions for each detail. but basic virtue is the science of director to create a pure Shakespeare adaptation and the new location is a piece who has its perfect role. than, the balance between impressive cast and the play. and, sure, the flavor of exemplary old fashion show. for a Shakespeare admirer, it could be a delight. for the common public , good remember and new occasion to discover an unique universe. for the young viewer - victim of internet and not very close by book, maybe, a form of revelation. that is the splendid gift of film - to be useful more than charming. to recreate emotion who has , in few moments, the status of magic.
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