Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Much Ado About NothingHaving been locked in a war of wits ever since a one-night-stand each would rather forget, Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker) are forced to spend some time together when the former’s friend, Claudio (Fran Kranz), arranges to marry the latter’s cousin, Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese). As Leonato (Clark Gregg) and Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) plot to get the two polemic personalities back together, Don John (Sean Maher), the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro, considers to cast aspersion on Hero’s character as revenge for a past slight.

Based on the play by William Shakespeare, and shot in just twelve days for mere holiday money, Much Ado About Nothing is about as far removed from Marvel’s Avenger’s Assemble (the third-highest grossing movie of all time) as it is possible to get. Less Shakespeare in the park and more Shakespeare in director Joss Whedon’s own condo, the film was shot in secret with an assemblage of actors from the director’s pre-Avengers work, including assorted cast-members from his cult television programmes Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly. In February, the film closed 2013’s Glasgow Film Festival.

Known for his dynamic characters and quirky dialogue, Whedon this time surrenders both to arguably the most famous and revered writer of all time. Nevertheless, Whedon still manages to make his own mark on the material, shooting in black and white and staging the whole thing in a contemporary setting. Unfortunately, this means that some of the director’s less agreeable trademarks also shine through, and just like his other work Much Ado About Nothing takes a while to hit its stride. About half of the movie, in fact.

Despite the party atmosphere that pervades throughout — as much a product of the reunion taking place behind the camera as it is the festivities occuring onscreen (Whedon had hosted a number of readings at his home in the past) — the opening act is almost as confusing as it is unengaging. Out of context, Shakespeare’s dialogue jars with American suburbia, the who’s who of Whedon’s regulars distracting somewhat from the ins and outs of the plot, while the exact identities of several characters are lost somewhere in translation. It is not until the comedics come to the fore that everyone seems to settle into their respective roles and the film finds its feet.

In fact, everything falls into place at the exact moment in which Alexis Denisof resorts to rolling around in the garden in order to eavesdrop on a conversation being held between Clark Gregg and Reed Diamond. At this point, with the characters introduced and the set-up established, everyone — the audience included — can stop fighting to keep up and start enjoying the spectacle itself. Denisof and Acker are brilliant as Benedict and Beatrice — as different from Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thomson’s iterations as they are from one another — and you can’t help but wonder where both have been since Angel ended in 2005.

As established, Whedon and co. fare best of all with the film’s humourous elements, and as such the show is inevitably stolen by Much Ado About Nothing‘s funniest characters. Every second that Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk are onscreen as hapless police officers Dogberry and Verges is an incomparable joy, the various elements coming together in these scenes and allowing the film to finally soar. Both are accomplished comedians, and together they work with (and occasionally against) Shakespeare’s already witty dialogue to hilarious effect. For some, however, it will likely be too little, too late, and their short success does have the unfortunate side-effect of showing up the first act’s weaknesses.

While Shakespeare might not be as tight a fit for Whedon’s abilities as Marvel’s superheroes, there is a lot in Much Ado About Nothing that works well enough to showcase his many talents in a new completely new context, while opening the Bard up to a relatively new audience in brown-coated Whedonites and comic book converts. That said, there is no getting away from the fact that it is only one half of a good movie, and forever in the shadow of Branagh’s own 1993 adaptation.



About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

  1. Pingback: February 2013 – Snitches end up in ditches! | popcornaddict

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