I’m trying to think of the last movie I saw that was in black and white. The only thing that comes to mind is “Casablanca”. These days, most movies aren’t just filmed in color, they’re actually computer altered so that the colors are more vivid, more stunning, and, well, less realistic. So to go into a movie with no CGI, filmed in plain ol’ fashioned black and white… it’s quite a relief.
“Much Ado About Nothing” was filmed in twelve days, for the lowest amount of money that a movie can be made for– what director Joss Whedon describes as a “micro-budget”. It was actually filmed at Whedon’s own home, and the cast is made up of some very familiar Whedon alumni: Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof from Angel, Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Clark Gregg (Avengers), Sean Maher (Firefly), and many more.
The first time I read Much Ado was in university. I was required to take a Shakespeare class for my English Degree, even though my concentration was in Medieval Literature. I expected to suffer through a semester of comedies and dramas; I did not expect to fall in love with Beatrice and to cry along with Hero and to laugh at Dogberry. This play is what made me fall in love with Shakespeare.
When I heard that Joss Whedon was doing an adaptation of “Much Ado”, I was thrilled. As a member of the Cult of Joss, I don’t believe he can do any wrong, and look forward to his projects with anticipation bordering on obsessive. The fact that his next project was an adaptation of one of my favorite Shakespeare plays just made it even better.
And he did not disappoint.
Much Ado About Nothing is funny and sexy and gorgeous and brilliant. It’s a modernized telling of the play but with the original dialogue (shades of 1996’s Romeo + Juliet). While most people would have trouble understanding Shakespeare’s old-fashioned language, the actors in this movie make a translation unnecessary; their expressions and body language help us to understand where we would otherwise just be confused.
The play follows two couples: Hero and Claudio, and Beatrice and Benedick. The latter has always been my favorite couple– Beatrice is sassy and witty, and she uses her sharp tongue against Benedick, who she claims to despise. Compared to them, Hero and Claudio are just not as interesting; they fall in love, Claudio is tricked into thinking that Hero is not a virgin and leaves her, Hero faints, and it all ends happily ever after. Bo-ring! I’ll take Benedick and Beatrice and their sass any day.
Amy Acker plays Beatrice, and Alexis Denisof plays Benedick. Both appeared on Whedon’s Angel, and their on-screen chemistry is simply phenomenal. You can practically feel Beatrice’s scorn, and Denisof’s over-the-top characterization (ducking behind bushes and rolling across the lawn as he ‘overhears’ Claudio, Leonato, and Don Pedro; showing off for Beatrice) had the audience rolling with laughter.
But that’s not to say that Hero and Claudio weren’t sublime! Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese were funny and relatable. And the rest of the cast was phenomenal as well. Nathan Fillion was the perfect casting for the incompetent and comedic Dogberry, Clark Gregg had the perfect balance of father to Hero and trickster to Benedick as Leonato, and Sean Maher was perfectly dastardly as John the Bastard.
This movie is everything you could want from a Joss Whedon film; it’s witty and funny, and even though the words are all Shakespeare’s, the script still has a distinctive Whedon feel to it. My only complaint was all the wine they drank, which made me thirsty!
I’d give it an A review, no hesitation.
[All images belong to Joss Whedon/Bellwether Pictures.]