Joss Whedon‘s black and white film, Much Ado About Nothing, is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy. Whedon sets the Shakespeare comedy in modern day Los Angeles. The film was shot in 12 days with mostly actors who’ve worked with Whedon before using mostly the original text. The story features fighting lovers Amy Acker as Beatrice and Alexis Denisof as Benedick, who show what a wild game love can be. The story also follows the sabotaged wedding of Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero played by newcomer Jillian Morgese. Their wedding is interfered by Don John (Sean Maher). This torments the Hero’s father, Leonato (Clark Gregg) who is also unhappy about Officer Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) snooping around the estate.
Once again, Joss Whedon has made a movie that has a rather studded cast. Most of the cast has worked with Whedon before but there are some newcomers in the mix. Alexis Denisof as Benedick and Amy Acker as Beatrice do a great job playing confused and stubborn lovers that refuse to admit their feelings. They show the absurd and humorous things that humans will do while in love. Benedick talking to himself and trying to rationalize his feelings while taking a jog shows situations that anyone who has ever been drawn to another human being can relate to. Nathan Fillion also does a great job as playing the leader of a very funny group of detectives.
The film has a fair amount of direction. The script is a straightforward re-telling of a story of romance and confused individuals. Not much happens and there is little else than the two strained relationships. If the film was not based off a Shakespearean play, I would say that it would need some sprucing up. A few of the scenes start to show an inkling of great comedy and wit but at times falls flat. But of course there are also many instances where Joss Whedon’s humor shines through. One scene in particular showing Benedick attempting to casually overhear a staged conversation about him and failing is quite funny. I feel the Shakespearean language still delivers laughs.
The cinematography by Jay Hunter is quite interesting. Most of the film is made to look like it is lit with natural light and this works very well to match the comedic tone. It fits well with the choice of using black and white. It is mostly handheld camera work and this frees up the camera to move around and get a nice variety of shots. The creative and interesting ways the characters are filmed, especially during the dancing scenes, adds to the energy of the film nicely. A shot of friends dancing the night away is lit only with party lights and candles. This lighting technique vibrantly shows a good time.
The costume design in this film was a highlight of the overall experience. The characters all wear very elegant and fine formal wear and are always dressed to impress. Early in the film the characters all attend a costume party and sport a variety of very exotic and decadent masks and outfits. Again the scene of the masked party is rather nice with it taking place in the backyard with comfy chairs, candles, white party lights, trapeze artists, and tables of food and drinks all around. The set design is also quite nice. The film was shot in Joss Whedon‘s own home in Santa Monica with gardens, balconies, a pool, large windows, large staircases, and a beautiful kitchen.
The editing of the film is very simple and never begs for attention. The music in the film is very jazzy but mostly in the background. On the rare occurrence the music will be more important to the film and diegetic guitar music makes for a great addition to the overall soundtrack.
Overall, the film is fairly enjoyable. The story is a straightforward re-telling of a tale of frustrated lovers, sabotage, and bumbling policeman. The acting of Alexis Denisof, Amy Ackor, and Nathan Fillion carry the film and provide most of the funny moments throughout. The film has solid direction but drags at times. If it weren’t a retelling of a Shakespeare play it could use some more plot development. The film has its fair share of funny moments but is dragged down by the moments that are too dry to ignore.
Much Ado About Nothing – 6.9/10