Much Ado About Nothing
Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by William Shakespeare (play), Joss Whedon (screenplay)
Upon first realization that Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is set in contemporary Southern California, one most certainly becomes both skeptical and intrigued all at once. How will all this play out? (No pun intended). However, only moments into the film it is quite apparent that Whedon knows what he is doing. Incorporating modern-day filmic style with Shakespearean dialogue does not always work, yet in this case it most certainly does. He expertly rose to the challenge and created, along with the passionate cast, an absolute gem of a film.
Much Ado About Nothing, shot in the director’s residence in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, offers audiences a look into the lives of a privileged group of people during a week-end long house party. Although keeping with the original text, the narrative is creatively constructed to seamlessly (as well as comically) tell its own version of the celebrated tale. With flawless montage sequences, crisp black and white photography and distinguishing mise-en-scene, it is hard not to fall in love with this cinematic version of the play. It is clear that everyone involved in this endeavor cared deeply about the outcome and worked hard in every aspect of the production. The cast is exquisite, both in appearance as well as with performance, all working remarkably well with one another. It is however, the chemistry between the two main characters, Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) that truly sets the tone for the entire film. Just as with a classic screwball comedy, both do a remarkable job at pushing and pulling at each other, bickering one minute and embracing the next, keeping audiences laughing and swooning almost simultaneously. Nathan Fillion produces a memorable performance as Dogberry, head of the security detail recruited for the compound. His moments in the film, although few, are highly notable, he once again proves himself as both an entertaining and gifted actor.
Much Ado About Nothing is fresh, funny and smart. It combines romance and humor in a way most films cannot and it expertly does so while looking polished and chic. There are moments when it seems as if the images are from a sharp Italian Neorealist film, further revealing how utterly brilliant this whole project truly is. As mentioned above, the mise-en-scene is very distinctive looking and can almost be seen as a character itself. The house and its surrounding grounds are presented in a type of labyrinth, further emphasizing the complicated relationships of the multitude of characters and the emotions that they are grappling with. From start to end, the film pulls audiences in for a charming and modern retelling of the noted Shakespearean play. It seems as if there is nothing truly negative that can be said about Much Ado, just about nothing.