Whedon's take on Shakespeare enchanting October 19, 2013 • Patrick White
Shakespeare fans, this one is for you, and those who are sick of today’s sappy romantic comedies. William Shakespeare understood the complications of romance in 1598 or 1599 and unfortunately directors and writers have veered off track. Rather than focusing in on why we experience love or the complex nature of the emotion, filmmakers go for cheap laughs and shots of abs or breasts to hold an audience. Joss Whedon, director of “The Avengers,” successfully fights for this classic style of romantic comedy in his film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“Much Ado About Nothing” is a film that will enchant audiences with a classier, more interesting romantic comedy style. The film succeeds with beautifully shot cinematography by Jay Hunter and men dressed to the nines in full suits and ties, attire not seen on film nearly enough since the 1950s. The women are also beautiful in their elegant dresses and their facial features pop with gorgeous black and white flair.
The film was shot in black and white, but don’t let that turn you away if you prefer your films bright and colorful because this adaptation gives the play a modern spin and maintains a fresh look at the 400-year-old play. For instance, the cinematography makes an audience always feel like they are in on all the secrets without anyone knowing, which fits perfectly with how the film was made. “Much Ado About Nothing” was shot in 12 days while Whedon worked on “The Avengers.” Whedon used many of his actor friends from previous projects and shot the whole film at his home, expertly designed by his wife Kai Cole.
The film is beautiful, but a viewer can’t simply forget the original mastermind. Shakespeare’s play zeroes in on two would-be lovers who wage war with words and appear to despise one another, but when those around them start manipulating their minds they fall madly in love with one another. The two lovers who loathe each other are Beatrice and Benedict. They are found at each other’s necks for most of the film, but later realize their quarreling is a cover-up for a deep love they both share. The film results in a string of humorously harsh moments coupled with the often zany bits in which we see the two trying to listen in on secret conversations.
Additionally, there is a more serious plot unfolding involving two young lovers Claudio and Hero. Initially the two are simply enthralled with one another, but Claudio is convinced by conniving conspirators that his beloved Hero has not been faithful. This results in a more serious atmosphere further showing the complicated nature of love and human interaction. The film simply wouldn’t have worked without both of these layers.
The standout actors are obviously Amy Acker and Alex Denisof playing Beatrice and Benedict. The beautiful thing about these two and really all people in the film is that they look like real people. That’s not to say that Acker isn’t gorgeous or Denisof isn’t handsome, but they present a new breed of romantic comedy actors. They can act, for instance, and are not muscle-bound, blond bombshell types as is often seen on screen. For this reason and their superb acting range the duo is completely believable in both their loathing and loving.
Director Joss Whedon obviously has done his Shakespeare homework and knows how to make a coherent, non-polarizing comedy with just as many laughs and engaging scenes as his big action spectacle “The Avengers.” Overall what Whedon has done is proven himself as both a serious film director and a blockbuster behemoth. “Much Ado About Nothing” is simply the beginning for this director who appears to have the same range as the great Steven Spielberg, a man who can make a film in any genre with ease.