My Thoughts on Much Ado About Nothing

MuchAdoAboutNothing After creating a number of cult classic TV series, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse, Joss Whedon finally received some major mainstream success last year as the director of The Avengers.  With this huge success behind him, you are left wondering what Whedon would choose to do next.  It turns out the answer to that question is a modern day adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which Whedon secretly shot while on a two week vacation, during post-production of The Avengers.  The film is a relatively low-key black and white production, filmed at Whedon’s house in Santa Monica, with a cast that will be quite familiar to anyone who has watched Whedon’s previous works. In the film Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedro are two of his officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato’s daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice (Amy Acker), the governor’s niece. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange with Leonato for a marriage. In the days leading up to the ceremony, Don Pedro, with the help of Leonato, Claudio and Hero, attempts to sport with Benedick and Beatrice in an effort to trick the two into falling in love. Meanwhile, the villainous Don John, with the help of his allies Conrade (Riki Lindhome) and Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark), plots against the happy couple, using his own form of trickery to try to destroy the marriage before it begins. Despite the film’s modern setting, Much Ado About Nothing retains the poetic prose of Shakespeare’s dialogue.  While attempting to put these words in a modern context comes off a bit humorous in places, I thought that the film was overall well done.  That said, it did seem a little obvious to me that the film was quickly on the fly at Joss Whedon’s house and there is even a scene in which one of Whedon’s family photos enters the frame.  Of course the film also spares no expense in a party sequence, which features trapeze artists swinging from a tree and copious amounts of alcohol. I’m more familiar with William Shakespeare’s tragedies than his comedies, so it was nice seeing some of the bard’s lighter fare on screen, which has a plot not too different than modern romantic comedies.  Much Ado About Nothing was previously adapted to the screen in a 1993 film directed by and starring Kenneth Brannagh.  I would be curious to check out Brannagh’s version in comparison, even though it was a much more straight forward period piece. Anyone remotely familiar with Joss Whedon’s previous films and TV shows will have fun picking out the who’s who of alumni that appear in the cast of the film.  These include  Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods), Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, The Avengers), Clark Gregg (The Avengers), Sean Maher (Firefly), and Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods), among others.  Probably the most well known Whedon-alumni is Firefly’s Nathan Fillion, who has a small role in the film as the police constable Dogberry and Fillion practically steals the film whenever he is on screen.  I also quite enjoyed the comedic timing of both Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof in their lead roles.  There is an absolutely hilarious scene in the film of Denisof’s character of Benedick spying on a conversation and the very creative methods he uses to prevent being spotted.  Also, I have to say that Amy Acker is able to comedically fall down a flight of stairs like a pro. Overall, even though the film was a low-key pet project for Joss Whedon, I thought that Much Ado About Nothing turned out to be quite a fun film.  The film shows that you don’t need much more than a single location and witty Shakespearian banter to make an enjoyable film.  9 | REALLY LIKED IT