Movies: Much Ado About Nothing

Starring: Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker
Directed By: Joss Whedon
Adapted By: Joss Whedon from the play by William Shakespeare
Lionsgate, 2012
PG-13; 109 min
5 stars (out of 5)


Okay, so I'm biased. I love Shakespeare to begin with and Joss Whedon besides. It would be my ideal great time to invite a bunch of people over for a weekend and say, "Hey! Let's do some Shakespeare! Whaddya say?" Some of my friends would even go for it. Maybe. If I got them drunk enough first.

If you're wondering, Whedon kept the original Elizabethan English dialogue, and in this adaptation it plays to wonderful effect. The actors manage to make it all very conversational, though I couldn't help wondering how many takes were involved in getting it right.

The black and white works well too. Color might have been too jarring, and the monochrome lends a nostalgic feel even though the setting is contemporary. The one thing that seems weirdly out of place, then, is the insistence on Hero being "a maid," since we see Beatrice and Benedick in a liaison at the start of the film. Why is it okay for Beatrice but not Hero? I suspect the gist is meant to be that in this take Claudio is actually protesting Hero's perceived infidelity rather than her lack of virginity, but since so much of the original play hinges on Hero's maidenly reputation—to the point that she is "ruined" and better off dead if not a virgin—the juxtaposition is a bit discordant. But I think it would have been worse to attempt to change the text to suit a more modern sensibility, so one must simply go with the story.

Not so long ago I watched the David Tennant/Catherine Tate version of this play, which was also made more modern, though (if I'm remembering right) set in the 80s rather than now. I'll say that I enjoyed Act II, scene iii with Tennant and the paint a bit more than Denisof's garden antics, but the music in Whedon's was better. Green apples to red, however, when you consider that Whedon also amputated a certain amount of text to give the movie a more viewer-friendly running time, and that he was working for film while Tennant and Tate were on stage.

I suppose the bottom line is I really enjoyed this movie. The cuts Whedon made work well to make the story accessible to less Shakespeare-savvy audiences (though purists may fuss), and the adaptation as a whole is pretty solid. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to prune some Twelfth Night, stock some wine, and start sending out e-vites . . .

No comments: