Sunday, July 7, 2013


Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, and Clark Gregg
Screenplay written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon

I will confess that although I love many Shakespearean plays, I have never read nor have I seen "Much Ado About Nothing."  I missed out on some fundamental pieces of literature in my youth and have tried to play catch up in adulthoold; a rather impossible task, but I will continue to try.  With my first attempt to see this film in Chicago, I should have arrived 35 seconds earlier as the woman ahead of me in line bought the last ticket.  I attempted it again a full week later and thankfully succeeded.  Another confession:  I almost left in the first 15 minutes.  I was kicking myself for not brushing up on this play prior to going.  It would have taken just a few minutes to read the Cliff Notes, or SparkNotes as they are now called, to get the characters straight in my head and the basic premise.  Thankfully, I stayed and true to every other Shakespearean play I have seen, even given the language, I was still able to understand the content completely.

For those of you in the same boat as me, let me give you the short-hand version of the premise of "Much Ado About Nothing."  Leonato, a nobleman living in a luxurious house in Messina, Italy with his daughter and niece, welcomed returning friends from war.  Immediately, one of these men, Claudio, fell in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero.  With a little matchmaking, the two were to be married within the week.  That is, until the evil Don John tampered with these plans using deception and lies. Meanwhile, Beatrice and Benedick with their sharp, sarcastic tongues, lash out at each other, but everyone can see beneath these strikes a fortitude of love abounded.  Again, with a little help from their friends, they would find true love, but not before many a silly, fun, and heartfelt  (classic Shakespearean) scenes unfolded!

Joss Whedon not only adapted this play to the screen, but also
directed it.  In my mind, this was a bold and brave move.  Tackling Shakespeare, utilizing his vernacular, and trying to make it appeal to today's audiences wasn't an easy task.  However, he truly succeeded.  Set in today's date, filmed in black and white, and speaking in Shakespearean language was a true amalgam of theater.  The black and white technique gave "Much Ado" the feeling of a 1950's movie.  The clothing accentuated this era as well.  But the iPod programming for music and the DSLR camera brought it in to the current day.  Only the language felt vintage; the themes of love and miscommunication were consistent from Shakespearean times through to today.  Given Whedon's varied background, it's no surprise he was able to pull off this huge undertaking.  The creativity and timelessness of this film will enable it, as all of Shakespeare does,  to live on for a long time.  The film, according to the SparkNotes that I brushed up on after seeing it, follows the plot line exactly.  There is no question of the feeling and thoughts of each character even when you don't understand all of the words spoken.  The acting from recognizable actors and those unknown was spellbinding.  The humor, through action and word, had the audience laughing aloud.  Shakespeare typically had some slapstick silliness and physical humor involved with a bit of elegant buffoonery.  Again, admittedly, there were a few things that more well-read audience understood better than I, but I didn't feel that I missed out.  I've been lucky to see many wonderful Shakespearean plays in Chicago and this film portrayed every nuance typically seen in a William Shakespeare play:  confusion, love, honor, death, remorse, and humor.  Shakespeare is funny.  Period.  Whedon's direction enabled his actors to convey all these aspects of Shakespeare.

Amy Acker (Beatrice) was the embodiment of a woman in love, but previously hurt.  Clark Gregg typified the elegant, wealthy, yet caring nobleman.  The standouts in this film were many with Fran Kranz as Claudio and Alexis Denisof as Benedick.  You could imagine Claudio in his war outfit from the 1500's just as clearly as you could see him in his slim black vintage suit.  He crossed all eras and personified the distressed lover, placing honor above all.  Denisof's character suited him wonderfully as he brilliantly went from womanizer, to confirmed bachelor, to love-struck puppy.  Rounding out the humorous aspect of the cast was Nathan Fillion as the bumbling, but sweet constable.  Poor guy was dumbfounded when he was called an ass.

Whether you know and love Shakespeare or not, "Much Ado About Nothing" is a wonderful way to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with his eloquence.  Teachers, if you're having your students read this play, it is a perfect way to augment your teaching.  Shakespeare may have died almost 400 years ago, but his themes, rhetoric, and ability to tell a story will go on for 400 more.  Thank you, Joss Whedon, for successfully making an intimidating film one that all can enjoy.


Trailer MUCH ADO
For more interesting information about the making of this film go to:
Joss Whedon films MUCH ADO in secret

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