It is undoubtedly a lamentable sign of my own ingrained snobbery to have low expectations going into a film based on the work of Shakespeare which is largely populated by actors from US television. I’d read plenty of good reviews of it, and I have respect for director and adapter Joss Whedon: he made an entertaining film version of Marvel’s The Avengers last year, and has had some success on television since Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And yet I still didn’t trust that this film, made in a two-week break between the filming and post-production on the aforementioned comic book blockbuster, could really succeed. Well it has — better even I think than Kenneth Branagh’s bigger budget and starrier 1993 adaptation — so I am pleased to be proved wrong.
Of course I can’t claim any special understanding of Shakespeare myself — adaptations of his work quite often go over my head — so the key is having actors and a director who are really passionate about the text, who work well together and understand one another, and this is very much the case here. The passion they show as an ensemble means that it’s never at any point unclear what is going on. Of course (and this is in the text itself, too) you do sometimes wonder why it’s going on, though Whedon has subtly integrated plenty of alcohol consumption: these are characters brought together in a single place for a wedding, after all. There is a certain level of stir-craziness to their actions, and the omnipresence of glasses of wine and shots of tequila (not to mention a crafty joint at one point) motivates some of the more overt slapstick that goes on.
Much Ado is, after all, a comedy, both in the grand sense (it leads to a harmonious ending) and in the details — there is plenty in Whedon’s film that is laugh-out-loud funny, not least the aforementioned slapstick. Stealing the film in this regard is Continue reading “Much Ado About Nothing (2012)”