If you missed the magical gay musical Were the World Mine at film festival near you, fear not! It is now available on DVDand it is definitely worth watching on a midsummer night.
I have to confess that Shakespeare usually leaves me cold — probably the side effect of watching too many poor productions of the Bard’s works. Still, when it’s done well, Shakespeare’s genius can come through. Such is the case with Were the World Mine, Tom Gustafson’s enchanting take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based on his own award-winning short Fairies.
Timothy (the dream-worthy Tanner Cohen — no relation!), a proudly out gay student at a stuffy prep school, is bullied by his homophobic classmates, save for one more sensitive jock Jonathan (Nathanial David Becker). His mother Donna (Judy McLane of Mamma Mia! on Broadway) tries to be supportive, but she’s struggling at a new job with make-up maven Nora Bellinger (the sublime Jill Larson) and not so sure how she feels about Timothy’s sexual orientation.
The only teacher who encourages Timothy is his drama instructor, Mrs. Tebbit (Twin Peaks’ Wendy Robie). The ethereal woman chooses Timothy to play the irrepressible Puck in the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, giving him a dusty bound edition with a secret. Timothy finds in its pages a recipe for the purple love-pansy, whose juice, applied to a person’s eyes, makes them fall in love with the first person (or donkey, in Shakespeare’s version) that they see.
“If you could make someone love you, would you?” Timothy muses, deciding to go for it. Better yet, he sprays all the homophobic boys on his rugby team, the coach, the mean girls and the haughty Nora for good measure, turning them all gay.
Although filmed in Chicago, Were the World Mine has a surreal feeling of being set outside the US, which adds to its allure. To say that “the course of true love never did run smooth” is an understatement, as the town of Kingston freaks out at all the guys and gals gone wild.
Cohen is wonderful as the puckish Timothy, and Becker is a gorgeous object of desire. Robie gives an iconic performance that ranks with the best mentor characters in movies, while maintaining a mysterious aura — I’d love to see her at Hogwart’s next! The music and production design is amazing and you feel yourself carried away.
If a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, Were the World Mine is a chalice of ambrosia that makes the Shakespeare go down, in the most delightful way.
Click here to watch the extended trailer of Were the World Mine.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.