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Monday, 5 August 2013
Review: Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon (adapted for screen), William Shakespeare
Amy Acker ... Beatrice
Alexis Denisof ... Benedick
Nathan Fillion ... Dogberry
Clark Gregg ... Leonato
Reed Diamond ... Don Pedro
Fran Kranz ... Claudio
Jillian Morgese ... Hero
Sean Maher ... Don John
Summary: A modern retelling of Shakespeare's classic comedy about two pairs of lovers and the bumps in the road of their relationships.
The first thing I have to say, in no uncertain terms, is: this film is awesome. I've been waiting for ages to see this film because it was not on general release and so wasn't showing in a cinema near us. It finally came to the University cinema this week and it was so very much worth the wait.
I have seen several adaptations of Much Ado About Nothing in my life and this one, is hands and shoulders above the rest. In places it is laugh out loud funny and the only other Shakespeare play I have seen that made me do that repeatedly was Midsummer Night's Dream. I've never found Much Ado hilarious before.
The script adaptation is spot on and the few extra little non-speaking scenes that had been added in are truly superb. Joss has done it again. Whenever he touches Shakespeare in the future I am going to be right there because the man is a genius. Actually, truth be told, I'm going to be right there to see whatever he does. I've never really followed a director before, but I'm totally a groupie now.
In case you don't know the plot of Much Ado, it's about Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero, two couples who are very different in the way they come together. Claudio and Hero are the sweet, innocent, madly in love pair who are the focus of villainous Don John's plots to wreck everyone's lives and Beatrice and Benedick are the couple who profess to hate each other and are brought together by their friends' matchmaking skills.
The thing about this adaptation is that it goes from hilariously funny (the two scenes where Benedick and then Beatrice are eavesdropping on their friends have to been seen to be believed - I was laughing so hard it hurt) to ripping your heart out thanks to Don John's evil schemes. It is simply brilliant.
Then there is the cast. Oh my god, what a talented set of people. They do sexy, they do dramatic, they do the most incredible comic timing. Every single member of the cast was stunningly good. If you are afraid you won't understand the Shakespearean language, don't be, because they way they deliver it means that it is totally comprehensible.
Amy Aker as Beatrice gave the role the spark it needed, the venom and the sweet romance that is still gloriously amusing. She was punchy and strong and, at points, fearsome.
Then we have Alexis Denisof who was stunning as Benedick. He is the funniest Benedick I have ever seen and yet managed to bring out the drama of the role. As he challenges Claudio it felt as if there was going to be bloodshed there and then.
Thirdly we have Clark Gregg as Leonato, Hero's father, and his comic timing is just wonderful. The way he brings the roll to life is absolutely brilliant and his conflict when Hero is accused is palpable.
The cute couple are Fran Kranz as Claudio and Jillian Morgese as Hero and they play it so sweetly that when it comes to the scene where they are torn apart by Don John's scheme it is literally painful to watch. We know it's all false and yet Claudio's pain and betrayal is so real and Hero's confusion, disbelief and shock are heart wrenching.
Sean Maher is amazingly sininster as Don John, even though he never even raises his voice, Reed Diamond is both amusing and resolute as Don Pedro and Nathon Fillion is brilliantly funny as Dogberry, playing 'the ass' so very well.
The fact that the whole thing is in black and white made it atmospheric, but, to tell you the truth, I barely noticed it after the first few minutes. It simply seemed natural.
And finally I have to talk about the setting, because, OMG, Joss has a lovely home and wow, did he use it well with the direction. There are so many scenes that were enhanced by the use of structure and placing that it's hard to come up with a favourite, but in the end it has to be the scene where Benedick is eavesdropping on Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato. Benedick is outside and there is peering in windows, running across french doors, hiding behind shrubbery and more and it is so very, very funny.
This film is magnificent and I have the blu-ray on order. If you have a chance, go and see it.
Forgot to add, if you are in the UK here is a listing of all the cinemas showing it.