Never have two writers been more appropriately matched. Joss Whedon‘s trademark wit and charm are perfect for William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing (one of my favorites) and I enjoyed his adaptation–it wasn’t perfect–but it was a good time. What was really impressive is that Whedon shot this in 12 days at his home with a group of friends–that is one party I would have loved to attend! 😀
Much Ado About Nothing is a fast paced, witty and hilarious tale of love, misunderstandings, a “merry war” between the sexes and perception. It has been given the Hollywood treatment before with the 1993 written and directed version by Kenneth Branagh–which I absolutely adore! It was a star-studded cast and it did not stray far from the written word. But, honestly, Branagh’s Benedict and Emma Thompson‘s Beatrice are superior to their new version counterparts–not totally dissing the new cast–but they are both able to deliver more nuanced performances (more talented actors??) and capture all the different tones throughout more convincingly.
With that said–I return to 2013. To say this production is low-key is an understatement and yet, Whedon shines here. He takes a simple approach that works with the atmosphere established. He shoots scenes through windows and glass that almost make you feel like you’re in the house watching the shenanigans occur–this approach allows you to feel like you are a guest in the home, that just happens to see and hear everything–which is pretty cool.
The cast is great! As a fan of the Whedon universe, it was awesome to see all the old friends from all the shows/films over the years and to watch them play with these Shakespearean roles. Not a bad bunch–I enjoyed them all and they held their own (some a bit better than others, of course) and they were obviously having way too much fun. Oh, by the way…Nathan Fillion–I love you. 😀 The stand out would have to be Amy Acker‘s Beatrice–(I have always been a fan and think she is sadly under appreciated)–who steals the film. She is funny and sweet and yet, can cut you with a glance or a word. Alexis Denisof is a good match for Acker and his Benedict has some of the best laughs.
My only problem with this adaptation is the retention of certain words and a particular theme. While Whedon changed the time setting to fit the “filming at my house during my vacation” perimeters and for a more contemporary spin and it worked well for most of the story–there was the tiny issue of “purity”. In 1598, when Shakespeare wrote this comedy it would be expected that a woman remain pure and a maid–in the literal definition–but in 2013?? Uh, not so much. And I just felt that it was an obvious misstep. It took me completely out of it–and I was unable to shake it. Others may just notice the infidelity angle, but the words are quite specific. It did not ruin the entire film for me–but, it was annoying–really, Joss? You couldn’t change a few words?
All in all, it was a lovely time with Mr. Whedon and Mr.Shakespeare and if you love either of these guys–you will enjoy yourself, too! Who knows…maybe these two will pair up again? Maybe during a vacation period while filming The Avengers 2? Twelfth Night? That would be awesome.