Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  RE.com (4 stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
RogerEbert.com (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Much Ado About Nothing [2012] (directed and screenplay by Joss Whedon, based, of course, on William Shakespeare's celebrated play by the same name) is arguably the happiest (err... "merriest" ;-) surprise of this summer.  THIS FILM IS A JOY TO WATCH ;-)

Filmed over two weeks at the Santa Monica, CA home of director/screenwriter Joss Whedon and his wife, using actors/actresses from his various film and TV productions of the past, it is obvious from the get-go that the actors and actresses (and probably the film maker and crew) were having a ball making this film.  Though set in the current day (the male characters being "corporate warriors" relaxing at the home of their Boss rather than Knights relaxing at the home of their Lord) as far as I can tell, the dialogue is taken directly from Shakespeare's play.  Part of the joy of watching this film is seeing the actors/actresses so beautifully "sell the lines."  Yes, they are speaking in Shakespearean English, but "sold their lines" so well that they could have been simply speaking in a somewhat more obscure modern-day dialect.

So what then is the story about?  Well it is about Benedick (played by Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (played by Amy Acker) both handsome/pretty, popular and witty but both tired/bored with MOTOS and at least at the beginning of the story a "merry war" of words against each other ;-).  Well in this, arguably one of the truly first "romantic comedies," could not stand.  So Benedick's boss Don Pedro (played by Reed Diamond) and friends Leonato (played by Clark Gregg) and Claudio (played by Fran Kranz) along with Beatrice's cousin Hero (played by Jillian Morgese) conspire together to "bring Signior Benedick and the Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection with each other."  Much, of course, ensues ... ;-)

Among that which ensues is a subplot, which is potentially far less "merry" than the rest of the story, and one which derives from a second understanding of the meaning of the title of Shakespeare's play:  For in Shakespeare's time Much Ado About Nothing could be understood as it is commonly understood today as being necessarily a story that is "light" and "happy" (about "nothing").  However back in his day, title could also be understood as a play on the phrase Much Ado About Noting (that is, about gossip).  In the story, a rather vicious rumor about Beatrice's cousin Hero threatens to turn this otherwise very merry story into something else ... BUT since "All's well that ends well" (another title of one of Shakespeare's comedies) this story too ends well, with a reminder to the audience that "noting" (gossip) often amounts to "nothing" (nonsense...).

Anyway, I found this film to be an absolute delight to watch and would recommend it to anyone from High School age to Seniors (who still hear well enough to be able to enjoy the dialogue).  And at minimum, this film will deserve a "best adapted Screenplay" nomination come Oscar time ;-)

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