Charles Reviews ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

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Charles has seen the Shakespearean venture of the great Joss Whedon. Was it Season 3 Buffy, or more like Alien: Resurrection?

Shakespeare. Ugh. All those big words and antiquated speech patterns and whatnot. Who can bear it, other than stuffy old English professors and, for reasons that utterly fail you and your friends, your parents?

Joss Friggin’ Whedon, that’s who.

In case you may not have noticed the cloud of publicity and nerd excitement growing dangerously large and heavy over the entertainment world, the nerd messiah himself, Joss Whedon, has just released his latest project, an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s comedies. He filmed the entire movie in two weeks using his own house as the set and various acquaintances and friends he’s accumulated over the course of his career. It’s a film made for the sheer, unadulterated fun of making movies.

So, just what is Much Ado About Nothing…about? It’s a film about love. Not just the love between characters, or the love of filmmaking, but a personalized love letter from Whedon to Shakespeare, great mind to great mind, illustrating just how important the Bard’s work has been for the rest of us artists. So many Shakespeare adaptations try to find something new and exciting to do with the material, or put their own little twist on the material to make it ‘theirs;’ Whedon, having a canny eye for the dramatic and the rights and wrongs of scriptwriting, does neither, instead making a 100% accurate adaptation of the play. To be sure, the subtexts and character profiles might not be what Londoners saw at the Globe a few centuries ago–but they’re BELIEVABLY SIMILAR. You can see Shakespeare’s comedic senses in Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry; he’s prim and preening, all style and substance, just like the best Shakespeare creations.

Amy Acker was just SO excited to get to cower under a table for a reason that didn't involve vampires or demons.

Amy Acker was just SO excited to get to cower under a table for a reason that didn’t involve vampires or demons.

All your favorites from the Whedon stable are here: Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker of Angel fame take the lead roles, while the aforementioned Nathan Fillion and the incomparable Clark Gregg take smaller roles. Stealing the show, though, is Cabin In the Woods‘s Fran Kranz as Claudio. Kranz is almost unrecognizable, going from greasy stoner in Cabin to somewhat pompous count. He’s at turns awkward and shy, then brash and authoritative. I have high hopes for Kranz; he has yet to disappoint me. You watch, this guy will do great things.

It’s always challenging at first to comprehend Shakespearean dialogue, but in this film even more so than others it seemed as though the barrier was broken early on. I remember some difficulty with the first few lines, then poof! you’re carried away by the story and the babel fish in your ear starts to work its magic on speech patterns you haven’t seen since 11th grade English. Much of the credit has to go to the impressive cast, who speak so fluently and emotionally that it’s hard to believe after a while that they’re not improvising at all.

As for Whedon’s homey setting, one would be entirely within their rights to weep bitter blood tears at not having such an opulent, beautiful living space. Though the few broad outdoor shots didn’t make the place look particularly huge, it’s the insides that really sell the home as the setting for all the lavish events in the script. It helps that there’s a lived-in quality to every room; I think it’s safe to assume that the children’s toys littering one of the guest bedrooms were, in fact, Whedon progeny playthings (future band name?), and served to make the tale all the more jump-into-able.

A final note must be offered as to the music, which is at its least perfect to the mood and at its most absolutely beautiful. Whedon composed the minimal score and adapted a couple Shakespearean tunes into showtunes played during parties; the latter are absolutely stunning and I’ll be finding mp3s of them as soon as possible.

"Joss, I'm sick and tired of all the other characters in my movies getting to wear silly costumes onscreen while I just wear a suit!" "Don't worry, Clark, we'll think of SOMEthing..."

“Joss, I’m sick and tired of all the other characters in my movies getting to wear silly costumes onscreen while I just wear a suit!”
“Don’t worry, Clark, we’ll think of SOMEthing…”

Overall, Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing isn’t just a good movie; it’s a good experience, and rises above legions of Shakespeare adaptations on the basis of the love and care evident in every detail of the production. It may be difficult to find local theatres to see it at (New Hampshire residents rejoice! Red River Theatres in Concord has it) but if you only see one Shakespeare movie this year, this should be it.

Or, you know, The Lion King. That was pretty good too, I guess.

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3 Responses to Charles Reviews ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

  1. Corrigan Vaughan July 10, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Spot on. This movie was perfection.

  2. Amanda Gibbons July 10, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Solid review-that’s neat this adaptation went with the original dialogue. I’d be very interested in seeing this to observe that performance and what the actors do with it.

  3. Ryan Foley July 12, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you for putting into words what I could not. I adored this film.


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