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TIFF 2012 Review: Joss Whedon Takes Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and Makes It His

By  · Published on September 18th, 2012

by Andrew Robinson

What can one truly say about Shakespeare? He’s a writer whose work has survived centuries of history, and his stories are still being adapted, both directly and indirectly. While his dramatic work is what’s most delved into by filmmakers, his comedies are what’s most fascinating.

The plot of Much Ado About Nothing centers on Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) serving as matchmaker to a few lovers in waiting. Pedro’s job involves matching not only the compliant, Hero (Jillian Morgese) and Claudio (Fran Kranz), but also the not so compliant, Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof). He sees what many do not and with the use of a few simple tricks to help push each couple in the right direction, he’s able to create a scenario in which love finds its way.

Not focused on depth, Joss Whedon’s take offers comedy gag after gag, and there’s barely any time when a joke doesn’t land perfectly. It helps to have the likes of Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Denisof and Kranz in your cast. The actor spotlight begins early in the film, where a character calls for music, they turn to the iPod and Gregg starts swaying – creating an inextricably funny moment solely from his expression intertwined with his movement.

So many comedies are unable to have more than a handful of memorable moments like this, but Much Ado About Nothing has dozens.

There’s something interesting about setting the film in modern day with the use of the Early Modern English that allows the film to generate peculiar reactions. As strong as the combination is, it’s even stranger to see a photo of Joss Whedon pop into the shot (they must not have done any significant production design). However, it does create some brilliantly awkward settings for Shakespeare’s words – especially when Denisof and Franz wander into a little girl’s room before soliloquizing about becoming ill with love.

As lovely as the black and white projection of this film can look at times, it’s hard to justify. Is it to help ease the audience’s believability of the fact that everyone is doing a Shakespeare story in an older version of the language while iPods are lying around? Is it simply because it adds some sort of art house credit to the film? It never quite feels right seeing it in black and white.

However, the detraction is so minimal that it’s hardly worth thinking about for too long. What technical care might not have been given is made up for in droves by an excellent rendition by wonderful actors.

The Upside: How can you go wrong with Shakespeare?

The Downside: At times jarring to see the innards of Joss Whedon’s home enter into the film’s visuals.

On the Side: The film was picked up for distribution by Lionsgate so hope for a release in the near future.

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