m u c h a d o a b o u t n o t h i n g
14th June 2013
15th June 2013
The latest incarnation of Much Ado About Nothing is described as ‘a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy…’ I’m not entirely sure I agree with this assessment. In some ways Joss Whedon has updated the story to the modern era but essentially this is a pretty traditional telling of the tale. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it, in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you need the plot highlighting at this point, I’d be surprised but for the sake of consistency: a family of military types return from a victorious campaign to their friend’s house. Whilst there, they banter and two couples emerge from the group. The machinations of the evil brother of one of the leaders, cause some troubles along the way. I display an impressive grasp of Shakespeare you see. The last big production released in cinemas back in 1993 starred Ken Branagh and Emma Thompson and kept to a pretty faithful time setting with all the associated military connections.
Whedon pretty much ignores the military connections completely. The arriving officers mention a campaign but this is kept vague and could easily be a business campaign. The other major concession to the shift in time period is the immaculate suits worn by the cast. The majority of the presumably pretty limited budget looks to rest literally on the players’ shoulders. The whole film is limited in terms of locations to the point of pretty much being a stage play. One house serves as the only location with the action shifting around mainly the kitchen, bedrooms and garden.
Shot in beautiful black and white, the movie has a number of standout images that impress – Fran Kranz’s Claudio sitting in the pool replete with face-mask, snorkel and cocktail, Amy Acker and Jillian Morgese’s Beatrice and Hero observing the funeral from above.... The handheld cameras offer an amount of movement but we’re not talking Bourne territory here. Aside from the costumes, the whole movie is restrained and traditional in its set-ups. The music is wonderful but not intrusive, there are two musical set pieces that re-work Shakespeare’s prose into lyrics but aside from that Whedon uses his score pretty sparingly.
Which leaves us the most important thing in any Shakespeare adaptation – the actors. Acker and Alexis Denisof as Beatrice and Benedick respectively are immense fun. Acker all smart wordplay and Denisof a mine of insecure vanity and banter. Denisof is the stand out of the cast, he takes to the role with complete enthusiasm and seems entirely comfortable with physical humour as well as the elaborate dialogue. His sly disappearance from the wedding to the bar is hilarious. Most of Whedon’s regulars crop up at some point, Nathan Fillion is great as the idiot constable Dogberry, sporting an impressive fat suit and gesticulating for all he’s worth. Others make less of an impression but nobody lets the side down.
At 107 minutes this is a pretty lean romp through Shakespeare’s text and it’s all the better for it. Light and immensely likeable, the cast look as if they’re having a wonderful time with the material and amongst the humour you’re reminded just why the Shakespearian dialogue is revered as it is: ‘I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest’. They really just don’t write them like that any more. Whedon has done a great job - shorn of any desire to lavish a massive budget and sets on a story that needs neither, he keeps it simple, concentrates on the participants and his cast repays him handsomely. You’ll do well to find a more joyful film this summer.
Check out the Much Ado About Nothing trailer here.