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“Much Ado About Nothing” – Review (POSITIVE)

June 23, 2013

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 9.44.35 PM

I never, in all my dreams, would have expected Joss Whedon to direct an indie Shakespeare film. “Buffy”“Dollhouse”, hell even “Avengers” fans didn’t see this coming. But, he did it. Joss shot this film in the midst of post-production of “Avengers”, at his lovely home, with the help of his entire Whedonverse pals.

If there were any of the famous Bards comedic plays that would suit Joss best, personally I thought it would be “A Midsummer’s Nights Dream”, but “Much Ado About Nothing” is funny too. I’m pretty sure most of you know the plot of this famous comedy, but to recap your slow minds…

It begins at the residence of Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, as he’s visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedro are two of his officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz).

While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato’s daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice (Amy Acker), the governor’s niece. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange with Leonato for a marriage. In the days leading up to the ceremony, Don Pedro, with the help of Leonato, Claudio and Hero, attempts to sport with Benedick and Beatrice in an effort to trick the two into falling in love. While such joyous love is blossoming within the air, the villainous Don John, with the help of his allies Conrade (Riki Lindhome) and Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark), plots against the happy couple, using his own form of trickery to try to destroy the marriage before it begins.

Modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays are, to say the least, tricky to accomplish in the right form. You can either play it straight using the modern world of today or make it extremely flashy and in your face while set in the modern day. We’ve seen this time and time again and it’s hit or miss, most of the time a miss. But, somebody comes along who finds the right recipe for (moderate) success to adapt a Shakespeare play with the right amount of flair and honor in the dear Bards name. I believe Joss Whedon has accomplished what most filmmakers lack in a Shakespeare film, making the characters interesting.

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 9.44.47 PMNow it’s true, most of Shakespeare’s characters are interesting, some not as much as others, but nevertheless interesting they are. Whedon finds this in genius way to give the actors the right setting, the right ‘staging’ if you will, and most importantly the right direction. My problem with most Shakespeare adaptations is I find the actors saying the lines are putting in too much force, it sounds more stagey than cinematic. The dialogue here, like most of Joss’ dialogue, is brisk, smooth, and collective. The actors here have the right amount of moxie their characters need to make us feel convinced they feel what they feel for one another.

The best performances come from people like Nathan Fillion, the BriTANick duo, and the combo of Alexis Denisof & Amy Acker. I had connection with their performances more so than anyone in the film, because I know what they’re capable of, I’ve seen their works in so many different forms, mostly in the Whedonverse, but nonetheless they’re capable actors who’ve got the right fluency.

The films lighthearted atmosphere is perfection to a fault, it has this sort of giddy energy and intimate charm that could capture the hearts of any movie watcher, whether they’re fans of Shakespeare or not, I think this movie makes for an entertaining romantic comedy. And, I believe it’s a Shakespearean adaptation that’s hard to resist because of the team that’s behind it. Already this made my top 13 list for the end of the year’s best films.

GRADE: A

Special thanks to Tana Velen for her input after the screening.

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