Friday, 21 June 2013

Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing' Review

Filmed in just 12 days on a limited budget, Joss Whedon's adaption of the Shakespearean classic successfully captures the magic of the original play. Updating the setting from 16th century Messina post-war to (presumably) a politicians estate, the film is quite frankly a delight.


For those who aren't familiar with the play, Much Ado About Nothing tells the story of the feuding Benedick and Beatrice and how they eventually fall in love (with help from their friends and relatives). Alongside the pair is the secondary romance of Hero and Claudio and the machinations of Don John. If you count any of this as spoilers: one, do not read on; two, go and read some Shakespeare (it's not as difficult as it sounds).

The direction of the film is great. The choice to film entirely in black and white gives the film a sense of timelessness, aided by the lack of contemporary references and simple costume (mainly suits and summer dresses). Whedon's choice of set and music also creates a stylish and chic feel to the film. Set entirely in his Santa Monica home, the film's location feels small and intimate but not claustrophobic. This enclosed nature helps to create a sense of believability in the rather fast-paced romances, especialliy with Hero and Claudio. The music of the film (composed by Whedon) once again rejects contemporary sounds and leans towards a smooth jazz-like feel including a rather nice re-working of 'Hey Nonny Nonny' (strangely Much Ado featured more jazz music than The Great Gatsby).

The cast, comprised almost entirely of previous members of Whedon's productions (I'm not going to pretend to know where everyone's from, sorry Buffy and Firefly fans), all perform excellently and feel completely at home reciting Shakespeare. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof have perfect chemistry as Beatrice and Benedick. Both have great comic timing, particularly in the deception scenes. Newcomer Jillian Morgese played a Hero with much more strength and confidence than previous interpretations of the character. With the use of just her body language and expression, she managed to portray a Hero much more suited for a modern audience with a less submissive attitude towards Claudio.

The only real flaws of the film are the flaws in Shakespeare's script. Dogberry and Verges are still superfluous. More scenes of Beatrice and Benedick's sniping would be much more interesting. There are still too many plot holes and Hero still forgives too easily. However this can't be blamed on Whedon or the cast and Shakespeare can't exactly rewrite the script now.

Much Ado is a lesson in how to adapt Shakespeare and literature in general. Effortlessly modern, the film still revels in Shakespeare's script and the ingenious wit found therein. The cast all turn in solid performances and the film is a delight to watch.

5 Stars

Afterthought: I know everyone else is lauding Luhrman's The Great Gatsby right now but Much Ado really is superior in every sense. It's a shame it's not receiving the same media attention or a wider release.

A thought after the afterthought: With all the black suits and Agent Coulson I like to think of this film as part of the MCU. Just a regular SHIELD party.