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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing: Whedon's Shakespeare Is Horny, Cute, and Affable

Posted by on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 9:07 PM

(Much Ado About Nothing was the Opening Night Gala film selection at SIFF tonight. It won't be screening again during the festival, but it opens nationwide in New York and Los Angeles on June 7th and in Seattle on June 21st, so if you missed out tonight, you'll be able to see it soon.)

Clark Gregg: This is the scene where he recruits Beatrice to join a super-team with Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Lady MacBeth.
  • Elsa Guillet-Chapuis
  • Clark Gregg: This is the scene where he recruits Beatrice to join a super-team with Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Lady Macbeth.

This movie is a classic example of the they’re-sure-having-fun-up-there concept of entertainment. It was filmed in a matter of days at director/adaptor Joss Whedon’s own house, with actors who are all his friends, in cheap black and white on digital cameras. (Whedon famously conducts after-work readings of Shakespeare with the casts of his television shows and films, so he had plenty of practice.) And you know what? Everybody sure does look like they’re having fun up there, to the point where you want to forgive the film’s obvious flaws just because you feel like you’re an invited guest at an intimate dinner party.

This horny, very funny staging of Much Ado About Nothing is set in an opulent modern-day estate during a wedding, when distant friends and family gather together because they have to. It’s a cozy affair, and the actors are all practically flirting with Shakespeare’s language (standouts include Clark Gregg, who wins this affable movie’s coveted Most Affable award; Nathan Fillion, who feasts on his small comic-relief role; and Amy Acker as a strong, confident Beatrice). There’s some silly physical comedy, willful deception on a large scale, and, because Much Ado is arguably the world’s first rom-com, every major player makes one asshole move that seems totally out of character. (Blame the writer for that last one.)

But it’s light and fun and funny and delightful—it’s so rare that a movie claps Shakespeare on the back like an old bud, rather than putting him up on a pedestal, like he’s in a museum. Who cares if some of the acting is a little hambone? (Alexis Denisof’s Benedick wavers between charming and cartoonish.) Or that the music, by Joss and Jed Whedon, is simply terrible? Or that a few directorial tricks—a whooshing white-out transition between scenes is more jarring than useful—seem more telenovela than feature film? Everybody is—all together now—having so much fun up there that you want to forgive them their trespasses. And so you do.

(This post has been updated since its original publication to reflect the correct release dates. I apologize for the error.)

 

Comments (16) RSS

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Matt Hickey 1
I love Clark Gregg. I have since way, way before the Marvel stuff. Have you seen him on The West Wing? He steals it.

I hope he has a great career because he's atypical of a Hollywood star but can hold his own against the A-List, which, really, his job in the Marvel stuff. I must see this.
Posted by Matt Hickey http://www.matthickey.com on May 16, 2013 at 9:33 PM · Report this
2
Ugghhh. Shakespeare on the screen is terrible, SIFF Opening night movies are terrible. Seriously, I've been burned on this twice now and I should try to learn from my mistakes. I could feel the "I'm so clever"-smirking through the screen.
Posted by FOAD on May 16, 2013 at 10:07 PM · Report this
3
Excited to see this. Not surprised that Whedon does Shakespeare well. Those two have a lot in common as writers.
Posted by stating the obvious on May 16, 2013 at 10:23 PM · Report this
4
"You sense that Branagh had more fun making the film than we could ever have watching it. Lucky him." -Anthony Lane

Not accusing you of aping Lane, but just observing that these adaptations seem to have a tendency.
Posted by FOAD on May 16, 2013 at 11:19 PM · Report this
Rhysling 5
You say the music was "simply terrible." For shame, Paul Constant! Trolling does not suit you. Will I be ordering the soundtrack? No. I will not. But the main song was not bad, and I Mo T's voice has the smokey lounge timbre just right.

Music at the after-party. Now THAT was terrible!!!
Posted by Rhysling on May 16, 2013 at 11:20 PM · Report this
6
@5: Half-right, Rhysling. The soundtrack was pretty treacle-ey. Every time I noticed it, I didn't like it. And the after-party DJs have been fucking terrible for many years now. I appreciate that SIFF has a stable location, but the after-parties a decade ago were actually pretty awesome. I forgive you if you don't believe me, having only experienced the HS-prom style affairs in the basement of McCaw.
Posted by FOAD on May 16, 2013 at 11:26 PM · Report this
7
From SIFF media guide:

"Credentialed media for SIFF 2013 may review all Festival films on the condition that reviews for films with distribution agreements be held until the film opens commercially.

For the purposes of this year’s Festival, reviews are defined as articles, essays, website/blog posts or any other critically focused pieces longer than a mention or capsule review that reflects a tone of subjective judgment or opinion.

Capsule reviews, feature articles, and mentions are permissible for all films, regardless of distribution status.
Capsule reviews are defined as short blurbs, including opinion, of 75 words or less. Feature articles may include stories written about a film’s production, the filmmaker, or cast—including interviews— and are typically 200 words or longer. Mentions are defined as film title lists or
a brief description of a film, typically 25 words or less, as part of a larger article."

Since this film has distribution, isn't this review longer than the allotted 75 words? Is SIFF gonna getcha for it?

Posted by sign on May 16, 2013 at 11:33 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 8
Man, this is one of those tickets it felt right to buy a few weeks ago, but here tonight I just couldn't bring myself to go to this thing.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on May 16, 2013 at 11:40 PM · Report this
9
I had a hard time hearing the dialogue. The after party was better.
Posted by wxPDX on May 17, 2013 at 12:02 AM · Report this
chaseacross 10
I really liked the film -- after the blockbusters and big TV shows, this is an intimate entree into the Whedonverse. Hambone acting kind of goes hand-in-hand with adapting Shakespeare's comedies (because, well, they're not funny anymore, so the actors kinda' have to be); I've yet to see a modern day adaption that came anywhere close to deft without also being boring. The one thing Whedon's adaptation does best is make a Shakespeare comedy breezy. I may not buy it, but I'm jealous as hell that I wasn't the one to make it.
Posted by chaseacross on May 17, 2013 at 12:36 AM · Report this
AmyC 11
@1 - yes! He will always be Special Agent Casper first and foremost.
Posted by AmyC on May 17, 2013 at 7:50 AM · Report this
12
Shot in cheap black and white digital? Because color digital is so much more expensive?
Posted by beatjunkie on May 17, 2013 at 7:53 AM · Report this
Jessica 13
Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk were precious jewels (are, always, precious jewels), and I loved seeing Amy Acker break out of her "intense smart quiet nerdy pretty girl" box and be a sharp-tongued and strong woman.
Posted by Jessica on May 17, 2013 at 8:06 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 14
If the cameras and projectors are both digital now, why is B + W cheaper? Do we pay a premium for colored electrons? This RGB monitor is breaking my bank!
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on May 17, 2013 at 8:43 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
What Jessica said.

The audience laughed at this much more than most comedies I've seen in theaters. Recommended.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on May 17, 2013 at 10:36 AM · Report this
MLP 16
Loved the movie! I thought everyone did a fabulous job, especially Ms. Acker. And the Q&A session was pretty adorable...even if they didn't really answer any of the questions.

After party, though...holy shit snacks that sucked. Way too small a venue for that many people, shitty VERY loud music, and "vendors" instead of actual hors d'ourves does not a fun party make.
Posted by MLP on May 17, 2013 at 1:18 PM · Report this

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