The wives of others – Much Ado About Nothing review

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By Simon Miraudo
November 25, 2013

What it must be like to live in Joss Whedon’s mind, his neurons and synapses constantly electrified into formulating spunky one-liners for his talented pals to zing one another with. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “Uneasy lies the head that wears that Buffycreating crown.” No wonder, then, that Whedon takes on the Bard in his spare time, inviting his friends over to reenact his finest plays. (Here’s some material the infamous script doctor hardly needs to “punch up.”) Thus, we have an explanation for Much Ado About Nothing, the micro-budgeted adaptation of Shakespeare’s famed comedy of errors that Whedon shot while The Avengers was in post-production. He probably wanted to get out of his head, and spending some time in Bill Shakespeare’s is as good as a holiday gets.

Amy Acker – formerly of Whedon shows Angel and Dollhouse – is the true breakout star here, proving to be equipped with a lithe Shakespearean tongue. She stars as Beatrice, who has long spurned all lovers, and enjoys griping with returned soldier Benedick (played by Alexis Denisof, a comedic joy). When her cousin, Hero (Jillian Morgese) agrees to marry Benedick’s comrade, Claudio (Fran Kranz), string-pullers Leonato (Clark Gregg) and Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) conspire to have Beatrice and Benedick end their “merry war” of words and wed that same weekend. A conspiracy by Don Pedro’s brother to break-up the happy couples brings fan favourite Nathan Fillion onto the scene as police officer Dogberry, and, of course, he steals every one he’s in.

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What it must be like to live in Joss Whedon’s house. Ah, okay, that’s something we don’t necessarily need to imagine, seeing as he uses his Santa Monica mansion as the one-and-only location for this modern-day take on Much Ado. Filmed over twelve days in black-and-white, it has the easy charm of a lazy Sunday lunch, yet is brimming with the enthusiasm of theatre kids excited to put on an impromptu show. (That Whedon wrote the score – as well as the songs performed by his sister-in-law Melissa Tancharoen – only adds to that jovial vibe). The wine flows freely throughout the film, and likely, all through production too.

Much Ado About Nothing is the antecedent to so many of the romantic comedies we’re still burdened with today. It relies on characters secretly discovering – and often, mishearing – information, as well as constantly f**king with one another, just for the hell of it. Yet, by stripping it down – and casting linguistic gymnasts who actually know what the lines mean and how to deliver them (see Michael Keaton’s regrettable turn as Dogberry for an example of the opposite) – Whedon makes Much Ado About Nothing feel infinitely more genuine than most modern fare. As it was in the 16th century, it remains a comic delight. A weekend away with Whedon’s bestest friends: I can’t think of a warmer way to receive Will’s words.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews.

Much Ado About Nothing plays the Perth International Film Festival November 25 to December 8, 2013. It arrives on Quickflix December 18, 2013.

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