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Joss Whedon Tackles Shakespeare in “Much Ado About Nothing”

“Much Ado About Nothing” Review

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a black-and-white modern-day adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Joss Whedon in between his work on The Avengers. Not to mention the movie was filmed at his house in 12 days, using actors we’ve all seen in other Whedon projects like Buffy and Dollhouse. Mind you, most of these actors aren’t classically trained or experts in Shakespeare.

Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing follows the basic framework of Shakespeare’s play. Along with his trusted men Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof), Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) victoriously arrives at Leonato’s (Clark Gregg) house, having stopped his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). There, Claudio instantly falls in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese). The two make plans to marry, but the villainous Don John plots with Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark) and his lover Conrade (Riki Lindhome) to break up the happy couple by making Claudio believe that Hero has committed adultery.

Meanwhile, Leonato’s witty and sharp-tongued niece Beatrice gets into a battle of wits with Benedick. Beatrice and Benedick are the heart of the story, and of the two, theirs is the more compelling love story.

It makes sense why Whedon would choose to adapt Much Ado About Nothing considering Beatrice is one of Shakespeare’s strongest female characters. Whedon himself has garnered a reputation for writing empowered women like Buffy Summers or Zoe Washburne. Beatrice refuses to marry until she’s met her equal, someone who compliments her strong personality rather than tries to control and manipulate her.

Benedick turns out to be her perfect match, after both Benedick and Beatrice overhear that the other is deeply in love with them in a scheme cooked up by Leonato and the other men. That’s when Benedick and Beatrice let their guard down and open up to idea of love and marriage. (Spoiler Alert: The play concludes with everyone, except Don John and his fellow conspirators, getting their happy ending.)

Instead of Shakespeare’s dialogue being spoken in super dramatic fashion, the actors deliver it as if speaking in casual conversation. This made it so much easier to understand what everybody was saying, which – in turn – made it a lot more entertaining to watch.

In particular, Amy Acker shines as Beatrice, especially during a scene where she expresses her frustration with not being able to help her cousin Hero and protests against the unequal status of women in society. Denisof is able to match Acker’s performance by bringing some great comic relief to the role of Benedick. Another standout for me was Fran Kranz as the easily manipulated Claudio; his reaction to Hero’s perceived betrayal is awesome to watch.

Much Ado About Nothing has got men in suits, backyard weddings, and wonderful performances. It’s a surprise gem, and one that you can’t miss out on. Go watch it right now.

four_half-stars_0

  • Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Clark Gregg
  • Directed by: Joss Whedon
  • Running Time: 109 minutes
  • Genre: Romance, Drama, Comedy

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