Much Ado About Nothing Screen 16 articles

Much Ado About Nothing


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  • Whedon’s actors may be beloved among his fans, and they may have been excellent on his show. But most of them can’t do Shakespeare. Stiff performers rattle off lines as though they learned them phonetically, while Whedon shoots them in bland black-and-white because otherwise it would look cheaper and more visually impaired than it already does.

  • Joss Whedon’s film “Much Ado About Nothing” might as well have been the “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” of Shakespeare movies. Rather than bothering to film his cast and crew on location, he could have taken a season of “Gossip Girl” or “Pretty Little Liars” and dubbed in performances of Shakespeare’s lines with the same overemphatic, fake-conversational inflections used by the actors on those shows.

  • Whedon's adaptation is ostensibly mirthful and light until one considers the implications of such sudden fickleness, of the gaffs in morality and the mistreatment of humans in the scope of a “comedic” attitude towards life.

  • Much Ado About Nothing boasts a natural intimacy, but there's no sense of what the writer-director connects personally to in Shakespeare's comedy, other than the twisty melodrama that obviously influenced his television work. The loose, black-and-white aesthetic often borders on the amateur and feels like an awkward match for the top-shelf text.

  • No one tongue-trips over the verse, and the misty landscapes glisten magically and ominously as the story winds its way through misunderstanding, manipulation, tragedy and romantic triumph. Yet there’s an unfortunate frivolousness to the way the filmmaker treats many of the darker narrative turns—especially in the case of the easily duped Claudio (Fran Kranz) and his inamorata, Hero (Jillian Morgese)—as if he’s rushing through the hardship to get to the happy ending.

  • Whedon keeps the staging simple, but directs with great energy, ace timing, and a good feel for when some embellishing gesture might carry a scene across. A minor pleasure—I found myself pining for a fuller production from the same team—but like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, it’s an unexpected and welcome blessing from the Whedonverse. More please.

  • Whedon doesn’t build up atmosphere to prepare the audience for the exoticism of Shakespearean language. There is no attempt to “sell” the text—the play merely unfolds as if it were the most natural thing in the world for a bunch of well-heeled Californians, corporate honchos, and their associates (from the looks of them) to express themselves matter-of-factly in Elizabethan English... Throughout, Whedon’s precise reading makes the play, once again, a new thing.

  • It’s not a perfect realization by any means, and never reaches into the most somber or sardonic areas of the play, but it definitely possesses that Whedon-esque nerdy energy, fizzing with humor, eroticism, booze and more than a hint of danger. I know this is obnoxious, but I’ll say it anyway: I enjoyed “Much Ado About Nothing” roughly twice as much as “The Avengers.”

  • The entire cast revels not just in Shakespeare's language but in the clever way this play both conforms, in its plot points, to the now-antiquated gender roles of its time but also subverts them, giving acute but not overemphatic stresses on the subversions. It's a take on the play that purists can certainly respect, and that novices may well find seductive or at least engaging.

  • Whedon has a knack for writing affable, witty people with universally relatable insecurities, and Beatrice and Benedick fit right in. Unsurprisingly, the scenes in which the two independently realize they love each other are some of the film’s best moments... There’s an undeniable cleverness toMuch Ado About Nothing, but like a lot of his recent work, there’s not much left to chew on once it’s reached its logical conclusion.

  • ...Its verbal jousting is less satisfying than its old-fashioned melodrama. Amy Acker makes as delightful a Beatrice as you’d expect, but she needed an equally impassioned Benedick, and her Angel co-star Alexis Denisof is just too diffident to create real sparks. On the other hand, Fran Kranz... makes poor, duped Claudio a genuinely tragic figure, erasing all memory of Robert Sean Leonard’s callow performance in the 1993 Kenneth Branagh version.

  • That problem is partly the play's jarring shifts from comedy to melodrama: It sets up the kind of exasperating farcical complications that could be cleared up instantly with direct communication... That said, the movie's let's-put-on-a-show spirit is infectious, even inspiring, especially with Whedon's Santa Monica mansion providing the needed antechambers and nooks for spying. And for Whedonites, the casting of veteran players and fan favorites supplies extra textual layers.

  • Miniscule in budget but mighty in ambition, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is several rare things at once: a satisfying cinematic take on the Bard; a literary adaptation which feels intimate and personal; and a home movie entirely worthy of the big screen.

  • Whether it’s Alexis Denisof ’s cocksure Benedick or Nathan Fillion’s puffed up, malapropic Dogberry, the effect is one of immediate surprise at the calibre of the performances. Whedon’s dexterous ability to direct seems to inspire even the most humdrum of actors to shine. Most impressive of all is Amy Acker’s pithy performance, letting the Tudor tongue twisters fall from her mouth with grace and refinement, often licked with backhanded bite.

  • That noir is romcom’s flipside was also part of the premise of Dollhouse, which was set in LA and meshed boy-meets-girl with undercover operations. Here, the usually incomprehensible and unfunny scenes involving the malapropic Constable Dogberry and his incompetent deputy Verges are put to good use to pastiche the clichés of the police procedural (CCTV, guns, desk punching) as their storyline intersects with Don John’s plot to convince Claudio that his betrothed, Hero, is unfaithful.

  • Watching Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof battle it out... is a supreme pleasure. Beatrice is a tough-talkin' dame like Carole Lombard or Katharine Hepburn, and Benedick is an independent irritable guy, reminiscent of Cary Grant or William Powell. Underneath the hostility is a coursing current of love and desire, lust and fondness, which both characters struggle mightily to hide. When they finally crack, when they finally give in, it is breath-taking and emotional.

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