Where there’s a Will – Much Ado About Nothing review

Much Ado About Nothing

By Jess Lomas
July 9, 2013

While Joss Whedon is best known these days for his Hollywood smash hit The Avengers, the skilled director proves he is equally successful when it comes to creating an engaging, witty, and fresh adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing on a micro budget. A between-blockbusters project of Whedon’s, it was filmed over 12 days at the director’s house using a recognisable cast of actors he’d previously worked with, providing a number of moments of gratifying discovery for Whedon die-hards.

Much Ado simultaneously follows two romances; that of the “merry war” between Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof), and the saccharine courtship of Hero (Jillian Morgese) by Claudio (Fran Kranz). While Hero and Claudio’s relationship is the catalyst for the action of the film, it is the witty banter and intellectual battle of insults between Beatrice and Benedick that provides the real humour and heart here, with Denisof’s physical comedy gathering the most laughs.

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Hero’s father – and Beatrice’s uncle – Leonato (Clark Gregg) opens his home to Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), who is returning from war with his officers Claudio and Benedick. Upon seeing Hero again, Claudio announces his intentions to make her his wife, with Don Pedro agreeing to assist in the wooing. Meanwhile, Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato, set out to trick Beatrice and Benedick into admitting their feelings for one another, setting off a chain of mirthful events and misunderstandings. Amongst the joviality, Don Pedro’s “evil” illegitimate brother Don John (Sean Maher) attempts to wreak havoc by tearing Claudio and Hero apart; spreading vicious lies that bring Hero’s character into question. His accomplices Conrade (Riki Lindhome) and Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark) eventually find themselves reprimanded by the local law, led by dim-witted constable Dogberry (Nathan Fillion).

The play itself, often overlooked for its more popular sister, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, proves perfectly adaptable to the modern Californian landscape. While Whedon tackles the classic material through a contemporary lens, the heart of the story, and the Bard’s language, remain. Whedon adds his own touch; a simple idea such as a character taking a cupcake off a stand bookends a tense scene that elevates the original comedy of the play and has the audience in stitches. With striking black and white cinematography by Jay Hunter and original music by Whedon, Much Ado About Nothing is a thoughtful, energetic, and memorable interpretation that balances the ridiculous with the heartfelt.

4/5

Much Ado About Nothing arrives in VIC, NSW, ACT, SA, QLD, and TAS cinemas July 11. It plays the Perth International Arts Festival in November.

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