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  Much Ado About Nothing Tell The Truth
Year: 2012
Director: Joss Whedon
Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindholme, Ashley Johnson, Emma Bates, Tom Lenk, Nick Kocher, Brian McElhaney, Joshua Zar, Paul Meston
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Now the civil war is over, perhaps the nation can get back to their lives, and Leonato (Clark Gregg) returns to his mansion in Messina with one of the main villains of the conflict, Don John (Sean Maher), and his two associates in tow, having captured them. In that mansion his daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese) lives with her cousin Beatrice (Amy Acker), but while she yearns for love and someone to settle down with, for Beatrice this idea is anathema as she has sworn off men for good after an unhappy romance with Benedick (Alexis Denisof), just as he has spurned all women. But Don John's machinations continue with unexpected consequences...

Much Ado About Nothing was the project workaholic Joss Whedon set to work on as a palate cleanser from his staging of one of the biggest blockbusters of his age, bringing The Avengers from comic book page to silver screen. He recruited many of his friends to set about William Shakespeare's text, with plenty of them recognisable from his other productions which at least would guarantee interest from his legions of fans, even if they tended to represent more of a dedicated cult than a mass market appreciation, that in spite of those Avengers cleaning up at the box office worldwide.

Essentially this was a home movie, especially since it was filmed in Whedon's actual home though luckily for the audience's enjoyment this rarely came across as the flaunting of the man's personal wealth no matter how much jealousy he might have bred in those observing, yes, that really is a very nice place to live. In the main his love for the text was what showed through, and if you were feeling generous you could draw parallels between Whedon and Shakespeare: both exhibited a passion for language, delighted in altering the tone of their drama, were trying to create populist works with a hefty dose of depth and quality, and so forth. The basis for bringing this to us were the readings for fun Whedon used to stage at his social gatherings.

Which did mean this was a rather self-indulgent affair (he even wrote the music), and that might have suited the whole notion of filming Shakespeare because at this stage in history not everyone was going to find the poetry of the Bard's plays the right thing to relax with, and indeed could see fathoming the dense dialogue as a challenge too far. Of course, Much Ado About Nothing had been made into a movie before under Kenneth Branagh's direction, and while that had a nice enough glamour to it with its all-star cast and well-chosen locations, it shared with the 2012 version a similar smugness which was difficult to shift when adapting a Shakespeare comedy to the screen, so it could be you had to meet these affairs halfway to truly appreciate them on the correct wavelength.

If you knew the original, or even if you knew Branagh's version, you would appreciate what Whedon had done to cut corners and in other ways make connections that you might not have considered before, though the basic tale of deceptions upon deceptions building to the big revelation that everything was all right really was intact. Thankfully no one performer exposed their acting as out of their depth, though some were more impressive than others; the two leads, Acker and Denisof, handled their roles with the requisite savoir-faire, making the changes between the serious and the comedic (at times slapstick comedic) a lot smoother than they might have been in less assured hands, and Gregg displayed a confidence with the metier that made you want to see him in more of this sort of film. For the humor, however, all were agreed Nathan Fillion came very close to stealing the film with his bits of business and modern way with the venerable text, though there was sufficient sincerity in the heartfelt emphasis on the importance of truth that you would be satisfied Whedon succeeded.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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