At this point, other than the very over the top homoerotic stuff (there’s a whole “love juice” sequence, too. I mean, come on!), it’s about as predictable as it gets. Hero kid’s got issues with his mom, his dad’s not in the picture. Everybody that the mom runs into, from customers in her job to her new boss, all immediately hear about the gay son and want nothing to do with her anymore. I mean this literally – every character in the play is either gay or homophobic, there’s no middle ground. The acting goes along pretty much the same lines you’d expect. There are some cute Shakespeare references, though, I’ll give them credit for that. During auditions one character asks that he not play a girl’s part, because he’s got a beard coming in. Later when roles are posted he’s heard to ask, “What is Thisbe?” But if that were all there was to this one, I’d give it a pass.
There’s two big differences, however, that make this far more interesting.
First, it’s a musical. And surprisingly, a good one. I have to pay more attention to the rest of the tunes, but so far it’s good enough that I’d go track down the soundtrack. You folks know me and Shakespeare-to-music. It’s only partly that, more like “I’ll find a line or two from Shakespeare and then build a song around them.” But, still. Great start. The title, for example, Were the World Mine? That’s a line of Helena’s, but they give it to Puck. And then they mix it in with lots of references to leading them up and down, and fairies running. So, really, it’s all over the place lyrically. But sung well.
The second, and this is the biggie, is that this is apparently a magical story. Puck finds a recipe for “Cupid’s Love Juice” (I’m still trying to figure out if they wrote that up just for this movie, or if it was copied from something historical), makes it, and it actually works. So with his prop flower from the play he goes about wreaking havoc by squirting it into the eyes of everybody – the rugby hero he was pining for in the first place, the homophobic rugby coach, his mother’s boss, everybody. It wasn’t until he got to his mom’s boss and told her, “Try living in my shoes for awhile” that the significance of the title clicked with me. Unlike Midsummer where the love potion inevitably causes the wrong people to fall in love, somehow in this movie he’s fixed it so that everybody he squirts falls in love with someone of the same sex, even though he runs through crowds spraying it on everybody he sees. Somehow it never seems to generate a hetero couple. Puck wields his magic flower like a super power, seeking out homophobes and dispensing justice.
Where his theory first breaks down is that none of these newly gay folk seem to have his closet insecurities. They prance around, they dance ballet. They throw themselves at each other. That’s hardly seeing things through his eyes. They even seem to speak Shakespearean, which is a weird side effect.
Once everybody’s gay (except for Puck’s straight female friend), the movie plays out like Midsummer – two guys fall in love with the same guy, and want to go fight about it. Two girls, meanwhile, fall in love with Puck’s friend, the one girl who has no idea what’s going on and thinks they’re all playing some joke on her. And, of course, Puck’s left to straighten it all out. As far as I can tell there is no Oberon in this movie. Only thing is that Puck now actually *gets* his boy, and doesn’t want to give that up.
I’m not done with the movie yet as I write this review (I prefer to do it that way, getting in at least a portion of the review “live blogged”), but it’s not really keeping my interest. Maybe it’s because I’m from Massachusetts where things like gay marriage aren’t nearly such a problem as they’re made out to be in this one. Second, the acting and writing is seriously coming second to the heavy handed message. Take the father who “caught his son in bed with his best friend .. holding hands and kissing!” because obviously it was important to not let anybody assume what “in bed with” meant. Then he adds, “You can bet I taught them a lesson.” And there we are left to wonder. So, what, you beat them? You just admitted to an audience full of parents and teachers that you abuse your kid? That’s cool, though, because all the parents are homophobic and it’s ok to beat fags?
Like all of these “movies with some Shakespeare” that I watch, my favorite part is always the Shakespeare itself. This one hasn’t got much. It’s got some rehearsal, and the music, and a bunch of people randomly quoting. But again just like Dead Poet’s, we get some performance near the end. I dig the costumes, they’ve got this cool sort of “Dark Crystal” thing going.
So in summary? Love the music (seriously, I’ll be hunting down the soundtrack shortly), dig the gimmick of playing out Midsummer in real life. But this is very much a movie with a gay message, and as I said, I think the writing and acting suffer for it. If you stripped all that away and just played it up like a typical romantic comedy with some mistaken identities and such, and it would have been just as interesting to me. Maybe that means I’m just not the audience? But if your message is tolerance of the lifestyle, wouldn’t you want your movie to be seen by people who may not already live it and understand it?