A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
In the early 19th century, wily inventor, Andrew (Woody Allen), and his wife, Adrian (Mary Steenburgen), invite to their rustic abode a couple of friends of theirs for the weekend.
Now their is Andrews doctor friend, Maxwell (Tony Roberts), plus his nurse companion, Dulcy (Julie Hagerty). And their is also Adrian’s professor cousin, Leopold (Jose Ferrer), plus his soon to be bride, Ariel (Mia Farrow), as well. All of them, together, to celebrate Leopold’s marriage to Ariel in a day or two’s time.
However, I am afraid to say that love is in the air during this occasion - that very special love that dares not speaks its name.
You see, Andrew is currently having sexual problem’s with his wife - Adrian - which is hindered more so because Leopold’s fiancé - Ariel - has a history with him. Plus to make matters even worse, Andrews friend - Maxwell - is also attracted to Ariel too.
Granted, at first, neither man exhibits their feelings to Ariel in a blatant manner. Still, Maxwell being the Casanova that he is, he can not help but flirt with Ariel at any given chance – resulting in Leopold’s distrust of him straight awway.
Thankfully, though, this fact isn't vocalized until sometime later, when Leopard and Maxwell stroll with each other along a narrow canal.
But unknown to either of them at the time, is that they meet at this place because previously they had both instigated to meet someone else.
For Maxwell, this lo-cal was a secret rendezvous point where Andrew was supposed to bring Leopold’s fiancé - Ariel. And for Leopold, this lo-cal was a secret rendezvous point where he was supposed to meet Maxwell’s companion - Dulcy.
But where is Dulcy? Speaking with Adrian about sexual techniques so she can please Andrew. And where is Andrew? Well, when he picked up Ariel in his flying machine to take her to see Maxwell, by accident, they crash land this contraption it into the lake and reminisce about old times.
A confusing set of circumstances, I am sure that you will agree. And does it get even more confusing? Yes - I am afraid so. Because later that same evening, during dinner, all the couples avoid speaking of events that have transpired earlier in the day. Instead, they speak of love and frolics, as well as proposing a toast to Leopold and Ariel’s marriage together.
Well, I suppose that is why what next transpires is a right love fest I can tell you. As rendezvous are re-arranged - lovers seem to quickly-change - miracles come out of the sky - and someone is going to die.
Did you know that 'A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' is Woody Allen’s loose adaptation of the Ingmar Bergman film called 'Smiles of a Summer Night'? Interesting fact, right? Here's some more: (1) This movie inadvertently inspired Stephen Sondheim to create his musical "A Little Night Music". (2) The role of Ariel was originally wrote with Diane Keaton in mind, but she couldn't take this part because she was busy preparing the Alan Parker film, 'Shoot the Moon'. (3) This was the first movie Woody appeared in an an ensemble cast, as well as Mia Farrows first collaboration with him as well. (4) Woody wrote the screenplay within two weeks, because the films producers, Orion Pictures, wanted a movie quicker than what he was working on prior to this, Zelig [click here for review]. And (5) Dustin Hoffman visited the set of this film dressed as 'Tootsie', and made sexual advances at Jose Ferrer, who did not know Dustin was a man.
OK, so now the facts are out of the way with, I have to admit, that this is not my most favorite Woody Allen film. Well, in placesm the acting seems strained – especially by Mia Farrow. Plus, at other times, over the top too – especially by Jose Ferrer. Also, the plot is somewhat European in tone, as if it was an Elizabethan melodrama involving wife swapping and silliness.
You see, the basic pretext of this flick is that person A is attracted to person B, while person B is attracted to person C, and so on, and so on. Moreover, on occasion, this pretext does seem somewhat contrived and forced - seemingly not in a natural way either.
Saying that though, there are quite a few ‘good bits’ to 'A Midsummer Nights Sex Comedy' that is scattered throughout this piece, which does make it well worth watching.
For example, Woody, as always, is his nervous bumbling self. Tony Roberts on the other hand does what he always does in a Woody Allen film... be himself. Julie Hagerty is the a stand out star all in all, and she really gives that comedic touch in places where it is sorely needed. Mary Steenburgen, god bless her cotton socks, has an almost Olive Oil (from Popeye) like charm about her, that makes her as adorable as ever. And as for Mia and Jose, well, as I said earlier, a bit off-putting in places.
In all honesty, I like to think of this film as a building block in Woody’s ‘multi-cast’ style of film-making, one that he will later perfect with films such as 'Hannah and her Sisters' and 'Crimes and Misdemeanors'.
Still, defiantly worth the watch - especially to those fans of Woody Allen, Elizabethan Dramas, and sexually repressed people.
THE RATING: B