Much Ado About Nothing (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/06/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Joss Whedon's modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is charming, emotionally engaging and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to inventive direction and terrific performances from Whedon's de facto repertory company.

What's it all about?
Directed by Joss Whedon and adapted from the play by William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing is set in modern day Los Angeles (though Shakespeare's language remains intact) and stars Reed Diamond as Don Pedro, who captures his rival Don John (Sean Maher) and delivers him to his mob boss brother Leonato (Clark Gregg) at his spacious California mansion (actually Whedon's own house). Once there, Don Pedro's bachelor henchman Benedick begins bantering with Leonato's feisty, cynical daughter Beatrice (Amy Acker), leading Leonato to decide to trick them into falling in love with each other.

Meanwhile, Don Pedro's other henchman Claudio (Fran Kranz) asks his boss to help arrange his marriage to Beatrice's sweet-natured cousin Hero (Jillian Morgese). However, the scheming Don John devises a plot to undermine Claudio, which leads to everyone being investigated by dim-witted Constable Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) and his deputy Verges (Tom Lenk).

The Good
Shot in just 12 days, the film came about because Whedon and a number of his actor friends had been getting together for Shakespeare readings at his house over a period of several years; this accounts for both the large number of Whedon regulars in the cast and the strong sense of camaraderie that permeates the project. The direction is both pacey and light-hearted throughout, while Jay Hunter's crisp black and white photography is entirely appropriate for the film, giving it the feel of a classic screwball comedy.

The performances are excellent: longtime Angel co-stars Denisof and Acker have palpable chemistry as Benedick and Beatrice, while displaying both verbal dexterity (their playful bantering is a definite highlight) and a gift for pratfalls. Similarly, Gregg is superb as Leonato and there's strong support from Kranz and from Ashley Johnson (as a maid roped into Don John's plot), though the supporting honours are roundly stolen by Nathan Fillion, who's hilarious as Dogberry.

The Great
Aside from a dramatic saving on production design, the staging of the play in Whedon's own house pays some unexpectedly delightful dividends, such as when a clandestine meeting takes place in a girl's bedroom with posters and toys clearly visible, or the fact that Whedon's laundry room doubles as the guardhouse.

Worth seeing?
In other hands, the concept of a director getting their actor mates together and filming a Shakespeare play could have been insufferably pretentious, but Whedon gets the tone exactly right and Much Ado About Nothing is a treat from start to finish. Recommended.

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Content updated: 25/09/2018 14:39

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