Buffy creator makes Shakespearian home movie. 

In contrast to World War Z, Joss Whedon's spirited black-and-white adaptation of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing succeeds because it's faithful to its source. By dusting off and restaging a centuries-old wellspring of contemporary romantic comedy, Whedon's work reveals an adult sophistication that complements the pop-culture romanticism he's shown in TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

Shot at Whedon's Santa Monica home, Much Ado's schemes and deceptions seem like good fun at first. Over the course of a long weekend, Leonato (Clark Gregg, goofing off with gusto after his serious turns in all those Avengers tie-ins) and his visiting friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) conspire to arrange a pair of marriages: Leonato's daughter Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese) will marry Pedro's friend Claudio (Fran Kranz) while Pedro undertakes "one of Hercules' labors" and reunites Leonato's sharp-tongued niece Beatrice (Amy Acker) with her pompous former lover Benedick (Alexis Denisof). Only the machinations of a training-wheels Iago like Don John the Bastard (Sean Maher, who's very sexy in his scene with a female Conrade) stands in the way of Shakespeare's ideal comic ending — wedding celebrations all day, followed by dancing all night.

I've never found Shakespearean language to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but I've always enjoyed the ways filmmakers broaden Shakespeare's comedy by emphasizing tone and gesture. Most of Much Ado's comic highlights occur the morning after a boozy, all-night bacchanal, when the scheme to trick Benedick and Beatrice into believing that they're secretly in love with each other unfolds. Beatrice's and Benedick's numerous pratfalls as they eavesdrop on their friends are offset by the houseguests' subtler gestures, as when Claudio and Pedro fist-bump while Benedick lounges in what looks like a little girl's bedroom and stares longingly at a picture of his newly beloved. More comedy comes from Whedon regular Nathan Fillion, who has some straight-faced fun as the malapropism-plagued watchman Dogberry.

However, the film's sprightly mood sours significantly once Claudio rescinds his marriage proposal to Hero and Beatrice asks Benedick to avenge her cousin by killing Claudio. Beatrice's speech — wherein she cries out "I cannot be a man with wishing; therefore I will die a woman with grieving" — opens up a gender-based wound that no amount of visual or verbal slapstick can quickly heal.

The fault, then, is not in the film's stars. But it may be with Shakespeare's play itself. No character in Much Ado is as endlessly fascinating as As You Like It's Rosalind, and the language doesn't achieve the peaks of a comedy like Twelfth Night. Plus, the central romantic couple is very tough to root for. Denisoff plays Benedick as a dour tightwad, while Beatrice's constant sniping seems to mask a deeper unhappiness no matter who claims "there's little of the melancholy element in her."

Nevertheless, Whedon's success in adapting, producing, directing, and scoring a capable Shakespeare film impresses.

Much Ado About Nothing
Now playing
Ridgeway Four

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite
Much Ado About Nothing
Rated PG-13 · 109 min. · 2013
Official Site: www.muchadothemovie.com
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: William Shakespeare
Producer: Kai Cole and Joss Whedon
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Amy Acker, Ashley Johnson, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Riki Lindhome, Spencer Treat Clark and Reed Diamond

Trailer


Now Playing

Much Ado About Nothing is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • First Man

      Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong in this flawed biopic
    • The Sore Losers

      Mike McCarthy’s dangerous vision of garage rock decadence, returns for a Gonerfest encore
    • The Predator

      Writer/director Shane Black reboots Schwarzenegger’s 80s alien nemesis in The Predator

Blogs

News Blog

City Orders Lime Scooters Off the Streets

We Saw You

Science of Wine and more!

News Blog

Election Administrator Addresses Ballot Issues

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Shocktober V Gets Scary At The Time Warp Drive-In

Fly On The Wall Blog

Great Works of Literature as Written by the Shelby Co. Election Commission

News Blog

'Misleading' Ballot Questions Draw Ire from Voters

Music Blog

Madjack Records: 20 Years of Homespun Magic

News Blog

20 Under 30 Nominations are Open

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation