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Much Ado About Nothing– Movie Review

Submitted by on July 8, 2013 – 2:17 pmNo Comment
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Joss Whedon‘s Much Ado About Nothing wears its DIY ethics on its sleeves: Shakespeare is unadorned, going without big-name celebrities, CGI effects, exotic locales, or Oscar-worthy period wardrobes. Many know that the whole film was shot in a matter of days at Whedon’s home, as a sort of “palette cleanser” after his billion-dollar blockbuster The Avengers. At the film’s start, the casualness of the production shows negatively; but as the story’s momentum builds and the actors find their grooves, Whedon’s Much Ado becomes the delightful, understated take on a classic that it promises.

Audiences not familiar with the story would do well to brush up on a synopsis before: The play takes place at the estat of Leonato, a governor. He welcomes to his home the prince Don Pedro, returning from a successful military campaign with his officers Claudio and Benedick. Also in tow is Don John, an evil bastard brother of Don Pedro. Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero, and Benedick reignites his war of wits with Leonato’s niece Beatrice. Despite some confusion at a masquerade party, Don Pedro arranges a marriage between Claudio and Hero, and everyone is happy. Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio also agree to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with each other, even though the two have sworn off marriage completely and appear to hate each other. The three men spread rumors about Beatrice loving Benedick while Benedick eavesdrops, while the women do the same to Beatrice, and the plan works.

Meanwhile, Don John convinces Don Pedro and Claudio that Hero has been unfaithful. They observe a man climb in to Hero’s bedroom at night- but it is actually one of Don John’s associates meeting with Hero’s servant. At the wedding, Claudio publicly denounces Hero, and storms off with the prince. The presiding clergyman believes Hero is innocent, and convinces everyone to tell Claudio that she died of a broken heart. Beatrice and Benedick confess their feelings, and she asks him to kill Claudio. Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel.

But a bumbling Constable catches Don John’s associates and learns their plan; he brings proof of Hero’s innocence to Leonato. When Claudio thinks Hero is dead, he is grief stricken and agrees to marry another woman in Leonato’s family as penance. At the next wedding, the bride is revealed to be Hero, and Claudio is overjoyed; Beatrice and Benedick confess their love publicly; and news of Don John’s capture arrives.

At the beginning of the film, many of the actors struggle through the flowery language and long speeches. Everyone seems to be busying themselves with tasks, like arranging flowers or preparing food, because they don’t know what else to do while saying all those words. Similarly, the masquerade party is the one moment when Whedon seems to force the glamour a bit, dressing up Shakespeare with a Shakespearean song set to hip jazz, trapeze artists, and swirling cinematography. But it’s very pretty and the story does require a party, so it works.

As the multiple plots are set in motion, the actors gain confidence and directness in their actions and objectives. Even longer speeches and soliloquies, like Benedick trying to find love in Beatrice’s harsh words, feel natural as the performers know exactly what they are going after. Alexis Denisoff uses his nasal sarcasm well as Benedick, but also turns on a dime to a steely dramatic hero out for revenge. And Nathan Fillion is hysterical as the inept policeman Dogberry, who deeply feels the slights given him by petty criminals.

Whedon’s ultra-low-budget approach and black-and-white filming give the movie a student feel, but Whedon’s restraint and gentle touch prove this is no amateur effort. Little cinematic strokes, like his repeated use of overhead shots peeking through obstacles and around corners, add a surprisingly effective voyeuristic note to this comedy.

Did you see Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing? What did you think?

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