I wouldn’t say I fall into the group of Joss Whedon super fans, but movies like “Much Ado About Nothing” can certainly do a lot to change that. Talk about an unexpected treat. Coming off the heels of his mega-blockbuster “The Avengers”, Whedon writes, produces, and directs this modest reimagining of William Shakespeare’s play. It’s stylish, creative, and energetic. It’s also a shining example of how a romantic comedy should be done.
Filming took place at Whedon’s Santa Monica, California home and took only twelve days to wrap up. Whedon put together a cast pulled straight from his personal universe of movies and television. He also made the unique decision to shoot in black-and-white. In yet another stylish choice, Whedon chose to use the actual language from Shakespeare’s pen. This may require an adjustment for some viewers but soon the classic vernacular will feel right at home in the film’s modern setting.
Most impressive is the way these words fluidly flow from the ensemble cast. The lovely Amy Acker plays the spunky and cynical Beatrice. She’s such an interesting character – headstrong but also a bit klutzy. She has soured on love mainly because of a past relationship with Benedick (played wonderfully by Alexis Denisof). He too mocks the idea of love and marriage instead choosing to beat his chest and tout his standing as a successful bachelor. Acker and Denisof have a fantastic chemistry and both have a real knack for both comedy and drama. Acker was the real star for me. She gives what I believe to be one of the best performances of the year.
You also have Hero (Jillian Morgese) who is to marry Claudio (Fran Kranz). There is her father, Governor Leonato (Clark Gregg), and Claudio’s father Prince Don Pedro (Reed Diamond). There’s also Don Pedro’s scheming and deceitful son Don John (Sean Maher) who would love to see the entire happy occasion ruined. We also get a host of great smaller roles from Nathan Fillion, Ashley Johnson, and Spencer Treat Clark among others. It’s a fabulous cast of Whedon favorites.
It’s hard to put my finger on what I like best about “Much Ado”. Its playful and energetic melodrama is a blast. The humor, which really kicks in around the middle of the film, had me laughing out loud and thinking back to the classic screwball comedies of old. The romance builds up and works beautifully. It does get a tad self-indulgent at times, but it’s also bold and original – two qualities I greatly appreciate in this movie age of cliché and formula. And of course there are the great performances especially from Amy Acker. I would love to see her name recognized come awards season.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying “Much Ado About Nothing” has saved the romantic comedy genre. But it absolutely shows just how much fun the genre can be. My expectations weren’t that high for this movie but Whedon really impressed me. This is his film from the direction down to the musical score and I give him all the credit in the world. This is a project that could have fallen flat on its face. Instead it’s a ton of fun and one of the better movies of 2013.