What's The To Do About Much Ado?
If you have been waiting and hoping for a calm quiet humorous rest from the break neck destructive blockbusters of the summer, then here is your chance to see one of the best movies I've seen all year! In Joss Whedon's adaptation of the play by William Shakespeare, we are treated to a delightful comedy that is exceptionally well executed and finely played by an incredible cast that includes Amy Acker and Alexis Deisof as the bickering duo Beatrice and Benedick, Clark Gregg as Leonato, new comer Jillian Morgese as the innocent Hero, Fran Kranz as the lovelorn Claudio, Reed Diamond as Don Pedro, Sean Maher as the treacherous Don Jon, and the always wonderful Nathan Fillion as the fumblingly earnest Dogberry.
If this cast looks at all familiar, it's for good reason. Most if not everyone involved in this film, from the cast to the crew, have worked with Director Joss Whedon at one point or another. If everyone looks like they're all old friends, that's because there is a good chance they are! The entire production was filmed over the course of 12 days at Whedon's own Santa Monica home giving it the feel of an extended house party rather than an elaborate lavish Hollywood production. The coziness of the location and the familiarity of the cast gives the entire affair an authenticity that well serves The Bard's great comedy.
For those unfamiliar with the play, or any of the other numerous film adaptations, the crux of the story centers around the two jaded lovers to be Beatrix and Benedick as their friends and relatives set about to ensnare the two into a love affair with comedic results. But it wouldn't be a work of Shakespeare without his trademark use of intrigue, betrayal, and a smattering of revenge for good measure. To go into the plot to extensively would be a disservice to people seeing the work for the first time, and to those that have loved this play for years. I could attempt to lay out the intricate details of events, but I would only be providing the worst possible example of Cliff Notes to a classical work.
Myself, I had read the play numerous times over the years, and have only a passing familiarity with the Kenneth Branagh film from 1993. Even knowing the plot in full and what to expect, I couldn't help but get wrapped up in this venture. Every setup for a joke or sarcastic jab was paid off in the purest form of laughter. Every dramatic beat was played by this stellar cast with a believable sincerity that works to bring the emotions home to heart. A great deal of credit is due to Whedon for his smart scripting of the work, as well as the deft direction of his cast to bring about one of the finest adaptations of Shakespeare's work to grace the big screen. Sure, to some this might seem a tad pedestrian or "film school student" to shoot a low budget modernization of the play at one's own home, but that is exactly why this film works so well. It is honest, it wasn't done for money, it was made because the man loves his friends, and he clearly has a love for the play itself. And with all of those fine qualities mingled together to create one film, what's not to love?
We follow the cast as they roam about the property magnificently rolling out their dialog and comedic actions as if this was the way they naturally spoke in their everyday lives. There is never a moment where it feels forced or the comedy so absurd that it breaks the scene. It is simply a wonderful movie and I can't say it enough that if you get the chance to see this gem, you owe it yourself to pack up yourself and significant other, or a dear friend, buy some popcorn, and enjoy one of the best theater going experiences I have had in a great long while. This is a movie that will leave you charmed to the point where you'll have forgotten everything you've seen, and will make you want to turn around, buy another ticket, and enjoy it all over again. What can I say, it's been an interesting year for movies so far that I am able to afford another film my highest rating possible.