Friday, January 24, 2014

Movie Review: Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Much Ado About Nothing (2013) directed by Joss Whedon

Yet another film I meant to see last summer (ref: Pacific Rim and World War Z). At least my excuse for this one is that it didn't play anywhere near where we are living in North Yorkshire.

One of the most popular and most absurd plays written by William Shakespeare is Much Ado About Nothing. The story is whimsical and the characters do quite ridiculous things. Audiences love it because it is full of joy, almost exploding with joy. It's easy to forgive the contrivances of the plot because the humor and the romance are so wonderful. The story follows a troop of men who return from battle to the home of Leonato where love is in the air. Claudio wants to marry Leonato's daughter Hero while Benedick and Beatrice have a "merry war of words" that inspires their friends to make them fall in love too. Madcap hilarity ensues with occasional moments of dramatic intensity.

Joss Whedon made this film during a two-week break in the middle of making The Avengers. The actors are his friends, mostly from his previous TV shows. The set is his house and backyard. He'd been having friends over for Shakespeare readings for years and years, so it is not such a surprise that they could put something together quickly and still do a good job.

The actors are good if not always outstanding. Alexis Denisof (Benedict here; Wesley from Buffy and Angel) might be a little too buffoonish at points but nails it in others; Amy Acker (Beatrice; Fred from Angel) does a great job and has natural chemistry with Denisof; Nathan Fillion (Dogberry; Mal from Firefly) steals the show. As a fan of Whedon's previous work, it was a little distracting seeing all the different actors popping up. But I got used to it after a while, just like people get used to the Shakespearean language.

The black and white photography works well, giving it a style appropriate to the timelessness of the story. The story is ultimately relevant to generation after generation because it touches on truths and experiences that happen all the time because people are, in fact, people. We've all experienced unrequited loves, the joy of discovered love, the hope of a happy ending in even the craziest circumstances. Hopefully not this crazy.

Parental Advisory: All the characters drink quite a bit; a little bit of smoking (probably some weed); some frisky sex scenes without nudity; that difficult Shakespeare language.

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