"}
Film

Much Ado About Nothing

Or What Joss Whedon did on his 12-day vacation

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Much ado is being made over the fact that Joss Whedon directed his modern-dress Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing while taking a 12-day break from postproduction on The Avengers. But why should this be so surprising? As superhero franchise palate cleansers go, you can’t do much better than the Bard. Besides, there’s plenty of avenging going on in Much Ado, minus the CGI, of course, and with a bit better dialogue.

I enjoyed Whedon’s film both as a species of stunt and also as a legitimately entertaining entry in the voluminous Shakespeare adaptation sweepstakes. It’s very different from Kenneth Branagh’s sun-splashed 1993 version, set in a villa in Tuscany and starring Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson as the contentious Benedick and Beatrice, who dislike each other so intensely that it’s obvious they will fall in love.

Whedon has mostly cast his movie with actors familiar from his movies and TV series, including Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Amy Acker (Angel) as Benedick and Beatrice, Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) and Jillian Morgese (a Whedon newcomer) as the dewy lovers Claudio and Hero, and Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Buffy) and Tom Lenk (Buffy) as the bumbling constable Dogberry and his loyal sidekick Verges. John Ford had his stock company. Why not Whedon?

Shot in black and white in Whedon’s sprawling Spanish-style manse in Santa Monica, Calif., the film seems, quite literally, homey. (To make matters even homier, the house was designed by Kai Cole, Whedon’s wife and one of the film’s producers.) The black-and-whiteness allows us to focus on the characters and the language without the vibrant distractions of a color palette.

This is a mixed blessing. Olivier’s Hamlet and Richard III this is not. The actors, while sportive and surprisingly adept at making iambic pentameter seem as form-fitting as plain old (olde?) American lingo, are not exactly going to be giving the Royal Shakespeare Company any sleepless nights. It’s beyond need of proof, of course, that American actors can perform Shakespeare on a level with the Brits.

Whedon does respect the play, and its language. This is no small achievement. Too many Shakespeare redos are plagued by an overarching “concept” that all too often wrecks whatever pleasures we might have taken from the play. Prime example: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, which did to Shakespeare what his The Great Gatsby would do to F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Can no one keep this man away from the classics?)

Whedon was smart to choose Much Ado as his maiden Shakespearean voyage. With its merry wit, interlocking love stories, and broad slapstick, it offers up a template for his own sprightly gifts. Plus it has the advantage of essentially being set in a single locale—no raging heaths, no battles (except domestic ones).

This is one movie in which the actors look as if they’re having a good time and, for a change, we are, too. I imagine Shakespeare would have been pleased. Of course, if he were writing today, he’d no doubt be writing for the movies. He might have even taken up The Avengers II.

SVCR-0604_GritsGlamour_770x150-CW
More Film...
Southside With You
Barack gets the girl

A 20-something woman living at home prepares for a day out. Her parents tease her as she fixes her hair. Is it a date? No, just a work associate, a Harvard law student with the firm for the summer, taking her to a community meeting to discuss “broken faucets and underfunded schools.”…

more »
Hell or High Water
Making them like they used to

Oh, they do not make heartland crime dramas like they did back in the ’70s—smart, ornery, low of budget and high of attitude. Steeped in seedy characters and lousy luck. Above all lacking in the least amount of body fat, moral or cinematic.

Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, Badlands.

more »
Florence Foster Jenkins
The flat lady sings

Perhaps she was a tragic figure, or a clinical case worthy of Oliver Sacks, or the incarnation of a dishonest middlebrow culture. But in the end, Stephen Frears’s enjoyable, sentimental movie turns this bizarre real-life figure into a version of Eddie the Eagle, swooping and crashing…

more »
Events
Today
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

We Grow Market

3:00pm|Northwest Youth Services

Music Enrichment Project Meet and Greet

4:00pm|Piper Music

Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books

Get Out More Tour

7:30pm|Backcountry Essentials

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Artifacts Wine Bar Andrew Subin
Tomorrow
Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Hiking Basics

6:00pm|REI

Final History Sunset Cruise

6:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Final BIFT

6:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Amnesty International Meeting

7:00pm|Community Food Co-op

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Northwood Steak and Crab Swinomish 2016
Wednesday
Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bellingham City Club Meeting

11:30am|Northwood Hall

Wednesday Market

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Lynden Book Club

12:30pm|Lynden Library

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Brewers Cruise

6:30pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

The Gun Show

8:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

see our complete calendar »

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Andrew Subin Swinomish 2016 Village Books Northwood Steak and Crab Artifacts Wine Bar Bellingham Farmer’s Market