Monday, 5 August 2013

Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing - A Review

OK, technically, it's not Joss' it's Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but you can clearly see the director's hand in this version and I think Joss deserves a little credit. :)

I'm not a big Shakespeare fan, in fact, the only version of Much Ado I've seen before, which was a live open-air production was truly awful, so I wasn't in any pains to see this version, until my sister mentioned it was on at our local art house theatre and I thought I'd give it a try. Admittedly, what tipped me over the edge into watching the film in the first place was the fact that I think The Avengers was a stunning movie directorially speaking and I also love quite a lot of the cast from Much Ado.

So, my expectations weren't that high when I sat down to watch, in fact, I was keeping an eye on my phone for the announcement of the new Doctor Who. I did turn the phone off before the titles rolled and then had my first, ugh! moment - the movie was in black and white. I wasn't quite sure what the point of that was, still am not sure, but after the first scene, I'd forgotten about it, so I won't hold it against the movie.

So, about the actual play itself. I mentioned above, the only other version I had seen was dire, a comedy had become a farce due to lack of timing and, IMO, lack of understanding of the text. That is something I can't accuse Joss of, he clearly understood what he was about when he adapted Much Ado to a modern era. There were a few anachronisms, always will be with Shakespeare bumped into the 21st Century. Conrad was as I've never seen him before as well - a woman - but she worked very well in the role - confidante and lover to Don John.

The setting was a large, rich house, the house of Leonato, father of Hero, uncle to Beatrice, played brilliantly by Clark Gregg. In fact, many of the performances were noteworthy without upstaging the other cast members. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof were fantastic as the quick-witted, acerbic Beatrice and Benedick, both bantering their way through life until the hysterical moments when they are convinced by eavesdropping that the one is in love with the other.

I have to say, I was watching patiently up until this point, mostly interested in the plot, but the wonder of the sheer slapstick comedy of the two scenes where first Benedick is hiding and over hearing his friends talk of Beatrice's love for him and then Beatrice is belied the same way by her friends, had me hooked after that. I belly-laughed my way through those scenes and then chuckled my way through most others.

The exception to the laughter was the whole plot where Don John (boo hiss) trick the lovey dovey Claudio into believing that his true love, Hero, is unfaithful to him with another man. Women fainting and dying because they are accused of being 'not a maid' is, shall we say, a stretch for modern audiences, but this is Shakespeare, one has to accept this kind of thing like light sabres in Star Wars, so I won't dwell. However, that whole scene was played with tension and had me wanting to throttle Don John and smack Claudio up side the head, which I think was the intent :).  And so I was grinning all over my face by the end when everything is resolved. :D

So, some fine performances and some fine directing that actually made me fall in love a little bit with a Shakespeare play (no mean feat, I can now list the ones I actively like on one hand). It was well paced, well acted and well adapted. I laughed, I cried and I left the cinema uplifted by the devoted love of Hero and Claudio and the almost anarchic love of Beatrice and Benedick - two very different pairs of lovers.


  1. I agree! Whedon's "Much Ado" was a clever and witty adaptation! Of course, that my fav actors were showcased didn't hurt either ;)


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