At Times Inspired, Otherwise Banal, Were the World Mine Takes on Shakespeare


Tom Gustafson’s queer-centric take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream teeters between banal conceptualizing and inspired execution. When high school homo and jock punching bag Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is cast as Puck in his all-boys school’s production of Midsummer, he stumbles upon a love potion that causes life to imitate art, creating a queer upheaval in his small town. Beneath a trite imagining of what would happen if raging homophobes suddenly turned gay (most, apparently, would become mincing stereotypes), the film articulates some age-old but still pressing truths about bigotry (Prop. 8, hello), social justice, and romantic longing. Gustafson pulls uniformly wonderful performances from his cast, especially Cohen and Judy McLane as the boy’s bewildered mom, struggling between her own homophobia and her love for her son. The musical numbers, filled with old-fashioned melodic singing and choreography that wittily references classical Hollywood musicals, put the prefab High School Musical series to shame. When the film narrows its focus from big questions addressed through overly broad strokes and instead zooms in on one-on-one interactions and the emotional power of a well-made musical sequence, it taps into a winning sweetness and poignancy.