Genre: Comedy, Drama
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz, Nathan Fillion
Shot over 12 days during the post-production on little known sleeper hit The Avengers, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is a more graceful affair than the superhero team-up.
A modern adaptation of the Shakespeare rom-com, the film takes place in Whedon’s own back garden. Coupled with the assembled cast of Whedon regulars this does give the overwhelming sense that the film is a cinematic episode of Cribs. This is not necessarily to the detriment of the film as it’s a fairly well perceived home movie, but it doesn’t do much to make the experience memorable. Everything feels a little familiar and a little un-daring but I suppose that’s the point; this is a film made between friends for a voyeuristic fandom.
With much of the ado taking place in various rooms around Whedon’s home, there are some fantastic juxtapositions that suggest the proximity to cast, reality and director – something either akin to a clever stroke of independent film-making or to the immature charms of a student production.
The black and white presentation and the almost-familiar score (by Whedon himself) go far as to place the film at the feet of the classic screwball comedies of the studio years, but sadly don’t do much more. The film is not absent of stylistic flair however, the camera work, notably the swimming pool poster-shot, often suggests the subtlety of the experience and the quiet grace the director brings to the project.
Perhaps the film’s finest quality is its retention of Shakespeare’s classic lexis. Flowing with a wit and speed that most modern comedies are absent of, the vichyssoise of verbiage is taut and well delivered, enough so to justify the ticket cost. The Bard appears a perfect match for the King of Geek then, with Amy Acker’s protagonist a confident woman and a precursor to the Ripleys and the Buffys that have been so frequently cloned.
Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry is also a highlight. A man of not so great statue, he plummets to the top with his malapropisms alleviating some of the quieter moments with unparalleled wordplay. Other cast members don’t adapt so well, with Fran Kranz looking particularly bewildered throughout, whereas others deliver with a glee that hints at the 12 day extended party Whedon hosted.
What prevails from all the performances however, is the sense that Shakespeare has a place on the modern screen, something that is a delicate comfort from the tempest of pixels and six packs that dominate the box office. Having Whedon himself is a similar comfort, and it is joyous to see a director break from the blockbuster mayhem to produce something more delicate.
While there may be much for the Whedondom (Jossdom? Whedoners? Whendonbitches?) to glean from the mid-Avengers night’s dream, others may find the intimate charm a little unmemorable.