movies: much ado about nothing

much ado about nothing
In 2011 while filming The Avengers, director Joss Whedon collected together a number of his friends and actors he had previous worked with and in twelve days they filmed a modern, black and white version of one of Shakespeare's comedies...

The finished result is Much Ado About Nothing.

I will admit going in that while I think it's the Shakespeare play with some of the best dialogue, it's probably not amongst my favourites... if only because the plot contrivance of (and here's where I lay down some 414 year old spoilers) Hero's honour being besmirched and neither her father, Leonato, nor her suitor, Claudio, give her the benefit of the doubt or actually bother to find out what the story is before essentially calling her a whore in front of the entire town.

Having said that, the B story (which, honestly, I always think of as the A story) of Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) is some of the best Shakespearean dialogue... and the mother of all screwball/romantic comedies for all of history.

Acker and Denisof don't perhaps have the same fire as, say, Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson from the 1993 version of the movie, however they do have excellent delivery and they both have some good comic timing.

Along with Acker and Denisof, the cast is full or people that Joss has worked with previously, whether that's in a variety of roles, such as Fran Kranz (Claudio), Nathan Fillion (Dogberry) or Tom Lenk (Verges)... or whether they've just appeared in one of his projects once like Clark Gregg (Leonato), Jillian Morgese (Hero), Reed Diamond (Don Pedro), Sean Maher (Don John) or Riki Lindhome (Conrade). And I have a feeling there were a few of the extras and minor roles that went to people he was working with on The Avengers at the time.

It was a little odd at times, knowing these faces and remembering them as completely different characters, letting go of that mental baggage to accept them as this new person. To be honest the one that took the longest was Kranz, as this is a very different character than he's ever played in the Whedonverse.

Fillion and Lenk steal just about every scene they're in as the bumbling watchmen, but of everyone I found Morgese and Maher the biggest disappointment. Morgese is a little bland, and although I know that that's partly the character, she didn't do a lot to elevate her... and Maher doesn't feel quite as dastardly as he perhaps could have as the evil Don John.  He starts well, but it seems to fizzle out a little... but then that could mostly be Shakespeare.

The black and white cinematography is quite beautiful and shows off Whedon's house (which was designed by his wife Kai) and grounds brilliantly. And the fact that the characters are all in modern day costume never feels weird. In fact, because it's in black and white, I think it lends an air of timelessness to this version so that it never feels weird that they're in modern dress, in a modern era, speaking in Shakespearean English.

It's not perfect, but it is clearly done with love.

yani's rating: 3 false knaves out of 5

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