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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Joss Whedon, Daniel Kaminsky
Based on Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, 
Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, 
Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Jillian Morgese, 
Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, 
Ashley Johnson, Emma Bates, Tom Lenk, 
Nick Kocher, Brian McElhaney, 
Joshua Zar, Paul M. Meston, Romy Rosemont

Lionsgate / Rated PG-13

A perfect adaptation.

Joss Whedon has shown the world his brilliance through a variety of subjects over the past twenty years from vampires and sci-fi to blockbuster action and now Shakespeare.

Can the director do no wrong?

Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare’s most famous comedy that follows a smitten young couple, Claudio and Hero, and their (as well as their friends’ and attendants’) attempts to match a sparring pair of “not-lovers”, Beatrice and Benedick.

Of course there’s a villain trying to ruin everything with zero motives except that he must fulfill his self-proclaimed role as “Villain”.

The back and forth between attempting to dissolve and nurture love is decorated with stubborn pride, wit, and outstanding humor.

Shot in Whedon’s home, the actors came together for twelve days and produced Much Ado About Nothing.

It felt a bit like a large family reunion. While the actors play drastically different roles from their pasts the familiarity and chemistry between them is welcoming and incredibly appealing. It’s a treat for longtime Whedon fans to see folks that haven’t had a strong film or television presence since their respective cult shows retired. And the humor is not lost among those who have never seen an episode of Buffy, Angel, or Firefly.

Joss Whedon has an extraordinary talent directing large and various ensembles.

Through each genre he tackles, the director is able to capture genuine chemistry within a group of people while also making each character individually sparkle. There doesn’t seem to be a lacking factor in his style and flow for this reason. Party and plotting scenes are full of Whedon’s famous casual back and forth – he really knows how to work a room, literally. Many scenes take place in single rooms but Whedon’s use of props and movement especially with actors privy to his style, the conversations glow. Because of this, even through the language of Shakespeare, Joss’ telltale quirky humor is expressed expertly.

Alexis Denisof is brilliant as Benedick and Amy Acker shows her great talent as Beatrice. Denisof is charming and oh so puff-out-his-chest manly. Acker is sharp and confident while subtly delicate. The duo is heartening and hilarious together. Enjoy his pushups and her eye rolling. It’s quite the contrast from when they co-starred on Angel as nerdy, timid, and goofy lovers, Wesley and Fred.

The story is set in the home of Leonato, played by Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson from The Avengers).

He is the host of the everlasting parties where the story takes place and father of Hero who is to be wed to his companion’s friend, Claudio – it’s Shakespeare so there are a lot of his friend, her friend, those friends of friends, etc. Gregg’s deserves exceptional recognition for his part as host and coconspirator. The actor’s small roles are always poignant and emotionally gripping in one way or another, there is never a lack of passion. His cordiality and eventual horrific condemnation is powerful without being over-the-top.

Honorable mention is due to Fran Kranz as Claudio, soon-to-be husband (or is he?) Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese). The actor gives melancholy an adorable face, especially while sipping from a martini glass in a pool in a snorkel.

Amazing.

Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk as the incompetent police duo, Dogberry and Verges, are the comical jesters of the film and are fabulous in their complete lack of proficiency and hilarious language-mash ups. “Marry sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.”

Even more amazing.

The film is light-hearted and filled with charm not only because of the actors but also the score – merry go-lucky tunes when the characters are pleasantly scheming, and slow deep strings when the villains are plotting. This addition feels very Whedon and gives a casual, TV-show-like quality and familiarity to the production.

This adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy is delivered with impeccable timing and effervescence rendering the film truly enjoyable to all audiences. The actors deliver Shakespeare’s lingo with awe-inspiring ease. It’s impressive enough to speak the text fluidly but that it is filled with such genuine emotion and authenticity is astonishing.

If you’re a Joss Whedon/Shakespeare fan, as I very largely am, enjoy the sensation of feeling like a kid in a candy shop that has all your favorite actors in it speaking beautifully while making you giggle.

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