A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy

David Perini

Fairies, magical transformations, Cupid’s arrow, and other fantastical elements of Shakespeare’s widely famous stage play nowhere to be found in this film, which you might think – from the titles, at least – is a rather unique adaptation of the classic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with all the magical stuff replaced by Woody Allen’s quirky bunch of friends and family. However, the actual source material isn’t Shakespeare at all, but another movie – Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 Swedish film, Smiles of A Summer Night, which was previously remade in English as a musical – 1977’s A Little Night Music. From the opening credits to its ending sequence, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy plays out like a stage performance, and will almost certainly leave you smiling, if rather wryly, at the end.

It's quite obviously the middle of a beautiful summer at the quaint, country home of Andrew and Adrian Hobbs (Allen and Mary Steenburgen), a young couple who’ve been having trouble, uh, in the bedroom. Andrew’s an eccentric inventor, his wife a slightly off-key homemaker, and they’ve unwittingly invited trouble to the countryside in the shape of Dr. Leopold (Jose Ferrer), his fiancée Ariel (Mia Farrow), their old friend Maxwell (Tony Roberts), and his mistress Dulcy (Julie Haggerty). Soon after the arrival of their guests, it becomes clear that no one is quite as happy and in love as they first seem. Chaos ensues as Maxwell starts wooing the lovely Ariel, who they discover was once Andrew’s old flame, with Dr. Leopold chasing after Dulcy. Wedding vows fly out the window, as each love triangle gets bigger and better, soon encompassing every character of this well-written story.

As writer, director and star, Allen does a superb job of introducing the characters and revealing their personalities piece by piece as time moves on. Unfortunately, the story ultimately doesn’t amount to a whole lot, and we’re left wondering where all the substance is supposed to be found. Characters and style are great, but for the film to really succeed, there needs to be more to it than that. As previously mentioned, the movie is very much like a stage production – the key players are few, their quirks overly expressed, and the setting rarely changes from the country house and its surrounding woodlands. There’s even an overture and intermission of sorts, with orchestra music playing as the credits roll (incidentally, this is the only time music is used in the film). The style is one not commonly seen in modern cinema, and it’s enjoyable.

While I'm sure many adolescent boys will rent this movie with only the title in mind, I hope that other audiences will give it a chance to entice and entertain them. This Midsummer’s Night is fun, witty, and wild, although ultimately forgettable.

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