I’ve been thinking a lot about Joss Whedon’s film, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING since I saw it at the Boston Independent Film Festival back in April. The experience of watching the film in a theater full of die-hard Whedon fans was the perfect way to see it, but I think the sway of the group actually hardened me to enjoying the film more.
A.O. Scott, a reviewer I generally like and agree with, raved about the film, and specifically by invoking the phrase “screwball comedy,” (my favorite genre) he forced to me mentally reassess why I had at first dismissed this film as fun, but not great.
Seeing Love’s Labour’s Lost at Shakespeare & Co last week also brought my thoughts back to Much Ado. I really loved this production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, a play I knew nothing about in advance, and probably won’t think about much in the future, but while watching it, it was utterly charming, laugh out loud funny, complete with 1940s songs sung by the cast, and solid performances. Any weaknesses were the play’s, not the production’s… which brings me back to Much Ado About Nothing.
Much Ado About Nothing also is very charming, with compelling performances by the two leads (Amy Acker as Beatrice and Alexis Denishof as Benedick). Their interactions crackle with wit and sexual tension, and yeah, they remind me of Hepburn and Grant. That’s really high praise coming from me. Even when things get darker, their relationship makes sense to me.
The aspect of the film I didn’t like was how the rejection of Hero by her father and Claudio read in this film. Given that the film takes place in the present day California, and there is no proof against Hero, their reactions feel unbearably backward and unforgivable, and it was difficult for me to accept or believe the happy ending that somehow emerges at the end. Whedon’s inability to make this understandable in the present day is the film’s biggest failing. The story could have been moved to a contemporary strict Catholic context, or somehow the extremeness of their reactions could have been better integrated with the rest of the film.
That said, I do think Whedon did a surprisingly good job for what seemed like a lark, quickly shooting a Shakespearean play in his house with his friends after finishing The Avengers. I love the black and white photography, and the casting is great. It plays at Images through Thursday, 7/11.
I’m really curious what everyone else thought of the movie. Am I making “much ado about nothing?” Please leave your comments below!