Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

Amy Acker as Beatrice listens in on false information in Much Ado About Nothing
 *** out of ****
Joss Whedon’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a passion project of honorable simplicity. Upon the completion of principal photography for last year’s The Avengers, the most logistically complex and expensive movie of Whedon’s career, he decided to make his own version of the four-hundred year old romantic comedy starring talented yet lesser-known actors with whom he’s worked in television and movies.

He shot the movie in twelve days using current-day indie film techniques and lit the film for a black-and-white presentation. Whedon isn’t an “all-or-nothing” artist. He clearly wants to stay in touch with his craft and continue working regardless of limitations. 

For those who enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s splendid 1993 period adaptation, you may feel a tad underwhelmed by Whedon’s much more subtle take on the material. Then again you may feel relieved you don’t have to suffer Branagh’s melodramatic indulgences. It’s a question of preference. Whedon’s super-yuppies, who lounge about the estate (Whedon’s actual home) in modern garb, preserve their American accents and deliver Shakespeare's dialogue with the nonchalance one might expect from a Whit Stillman film. This is the beauty of time-honored works like the plays of William Shakespeare, they can be produced again and again and it’s fun to see how different they are each time. 

While the severe level of drama involving Hero (Jillian Morgese) and Claudio’s (Fran Kranz) botched union feels out of place, the love game of the two stubborn independents, Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Desinof), has never felt more fitting than in this modern context. 

For those unfamiliar with the story, it is about high ranking soldiers (In this film, businessmen) staying as guests at the home of Leonato (Clark Gregg) after a successful battle (Maybe a profitable deal). While there is great potential for love between the soldiers and maidens of the house, manipulative forces of different kinds make and break couples.

Whedon achieves a production on the level of a rare L.A. stage show that we have been given the opportunity to see - for those who can find a cineplex presenting the movie. It isn't overproduced or trying hard to be grand but everthing is serving its purpose, particularly the acting. The players are clearly enjoying themselves. Movies like this are very rare. The fact that it came from a person who has just hit the Hollywood jackpot, it's humble nature is kind of amazing.

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