Joss Whedon Much Ado About NothingBy Xandra Weaver • Jun 20th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Opens Friday, June 21st Nationwide
Running Time: 109 Minutes
“Much Ado About Nothing,” an adaptation shot in secret during a break in filming “The Avengers,” premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Filmed entirely in crisp black and white, the film takes all the classic characters of the Shakespeare play and brings them together at a party in a modern day estate, complete with swimming pool, bay windows and a garden for lovers to cavort in. The plot unfolds simply enough for anyone to follow, yet revels in all the mistaken identities, farcical twists and hairpin turns of the original classic.
The story begins as the party guests arrive. We learn that one of the guests, Benedick (played by Alexis Denisof), is an old lover of Beatrice (played by Amy Acker). The two joke at length with each other, but the instant chemistry between the two makes it obvious that they also wound each other with their words. Benedick’s friend Claudio (played by Fran Kranz) falls in love almost instantaneously with Beatrice’s cousin Hero (played by Jillian Morgese). They want to court each other, but unlike Benedick and Beatrice, their feelings render them wordless.
Beatrice and Benedick are tricked by their friends into thinking that the other is in love with them. Meanwhile Claudio is convinced by a false witness that Hero has been unfaithful, which results in him disavowing the innocent Hero on their wedding day. All is restored, however, by the awkward captain of the Guard, Dogberry (played by Nathan Fillion), who finds the truth and gives testimony of the deception.
The adaptation stays true to the original language of Shakespeare, but explores some very timeless themes. Amy Acker’s Beatrice is a woman whose love is not for sale, yet she is not harsh or shrewish. Everyone gathers around her to enjoy her quick wit, and it is obvious that her wit and intelligence is what Benedick is attracted to. Meanwhile, Denisof’s Benedick is resolved to prove that he doesn’t need a woman to complete him, and to that end he pledges to remain a bachelor and never marry. However, Denisof plays the character with more pathos, so when Benedick realizes he is too in love to keep up his resolve to never marry, he releases all his bluster and seems all the happier for it. This is something that was somewhat missing from the Branaugh version (1993), where the charm seemed to come solely from a blustering and pompous attitude.
The supporting cast is brilliantly in the moment every second of screen time. The party scenes are highlighted with inspired music composed specifically for the film. The composition of the movie reminds one of a fast-paced dance where partners are constantly switching. Characters are duped, misled, deceived and argue with one another until the final reveals.
Every actor made the most out of their characters. The only failing seemed to be a slight misstep with Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry. While Fillion was hilarious in his general posturing as an over-confident guard, the character was almost too sure of himself. This had the result of confusing the story, as the character’s speech is supposed to be rife with malapropisms. This could have been remedied however, if the surrounding characters had conveyed that there was something funny in the way he talked, but no-one seemed too confused by his misspoken words. This was a huge missed opportunity, as not many people in a general audience would automatically pick out one misused Elizabethan word from the flock, and so the entire joke of the character’s long and uneducated speeches was lost.
Overall, though, the piece succeeded in maintaining a natural flow. The comedy flowed from the character interaction, instead of merely from jokes. The drama was heightened by the fact that the characters made you care for them, and want vindication when they were wronged. Overall, the film showed that passion can produce true art, regardless of budget.
Photos by Elsa Guillet-Chapuis
Cast (in alphabetical order)
- Beatrice: Amy Acker
- Ursula: Emma Bates
- Servant: Sara Blindauer
- Wedding Guest: Brett Ryan Bonowicz
- Borachio: Spencer Treat Clark
- Benedick: Alexis Denisof
- Don Pedro: Reed Diamond
- Dogberry: Nathan Fillion
- Wedding Guest: Ashley Friedlander
- Leonato: Clark Gregg
- Servant: Anna Grimm
- The Court Photographer: Elsa Guillet-Chapuis
- Margaret: Ashley Johnson
- First Watchman: Nick Kocher
- Claudio: Fran Kranz
- Verges: Tom Lenk
- Conrade: Riki Lindhome
- Don John: Sean Maher
- Wake Guest: Amanda Marlon
- Second Watchman: Brian McElhaney
- Friar Francis: Paul Meston
- Hero: Jillian Morgese
- The Sexton: Romy Rosemont
- Wedding Guest: Jessie Sherman
- Servant: Stacy Shirk
- Servant: Adam James Shirley
- Leonato’s aide: Joshua Zar
Disclaimer: ShowBizRadio was provided two complimentary media tickets for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9599.
Xandra Weaver has a great love of the process of theater and the creation of art that has led her into working both behind the scenes and onstage. Her career includes working for many years providing sound and lights for both professional and amateur shows as well as makeup work for a feature film. At college, she specialized in makeup to earn her theater degree, and discovered a love for directing and playwrighting. She's also been a nominee for the DC area theater WATCH awards for her work with the company of The Producers with The Arlington Players.