Dir: Joss Whedon, 2013
During the preamble to Claudio and Hero’s dream wedding, the soon-to-be-newlyweds and their group of friends plot to have warring singletons Benedick and Beatrice recognise their true feelings for one another.
Almost two years ago, once principal photography had wrapped on what would turn out to be the biggest superhero movie of all time, Marvel head Kevin Feige gave director Joss Whedon two weeks off for him and his wife to celebrate their 20th anniversary in Venice. Instead (at the behest of his wife), Whedon made Much Ado About Nothing. Here is proof that Joss Whedon is a filmmaker’s filmmaker – a man who loves creating art and the key ingredient to this Shakespearean success is the unmistakeable presence of that very passion in each and every frame.
To those who refer to this niche little black-and-white indie as a palette cleanser or an antithesis or an arch-nemesis (to dwell in the comic book world), I say “nay” for there is naught in Much Ado About Nothing that Joss Whedon hasn’t shown us before. Okay, we can swap spandex for formalwear, spaceships for Sedans and a half-ruined New York City for a Santa Monica townhouse. Nevertheless, Much Ado is yet another addition to the astonishing pile of work that Whedon can attribute to that undisputed work ethic and the unbridled adoration for their craft that every person he collaborates with can attest to.
Whedon assembles his other super-group of actors, filling the screen with Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse alumni, and in doing so demonstrates not the enormity of his rolodex but the extent of his family. The Shake-speak may at times be a little indistinct, what with the actors sweeping through it as though it were song, but the superbly bombastic manoeuvres of Whedon’s sublime cast keep us in tow and never cease to delight. Clearly, these are actors who are enjoying themselves tremendously and sharing that enthusiasm with their audience. As far as the leading lovers go, Alexis Denisof is arrogant though charming and Amy Acker rough yet sweet – a match made in Heaven that baffle as to why their careers have been restricted to post-credits sequences and television guest spots. Rounding out the supporting comic roles is a hilariously buffoonish Nathan Fillion playing Dogberry and Clark Gregg as Leonato, in a performance that triumphs on Gregg’s facial expressions alone.
It may not revolutionise your mindset or indeed stay with you for long but Joss and company excel in the area of low-budget production and set an example for budding filmmakers everywhere. Much Ado About Nothing is as intimate as any home movie without being beleaguered by amateurism. Whedon invites you into his home literally and spiritually, revelling in his adaptation of a text that is as dear to his heart as any of his other projects.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆