Much Ado About Nothing

July 4, 2013 No Comments


I have no doubt that Shakespeare would have been a Buffy fan.

(Of course, I am referring to Josh Whedon’s  hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which ran for many seasons, creating competent spinoffs).  The presence  of strong, witty female characters in his plays written at a time when women weren’t even allowed onstage to act the female roles seems almost avant garde even by today’s standards when female characters are usually supportive eye candy (I’m not talking about Kathryn Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty).

Whedon gets it right in this engaging new film version of the timeless play.  Undaunted by the very successful (and very good) 1993  film version directed by and starring Shakespeare superstar Kenneth Branagh (and Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Michael Keaton), Whedon creates a completely different feel for the timeless story of love  and deception.  He shot the entire film in black and white (except for one minor,very cool exception), using his own Malibu home, casting his friends who often apparently gather to read Shakespeare.  Oh, and he did it while on stay-cation in under two weeks!

The mixing of modern dress and Shakespearean language is nothing new in film adaptations (remember Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet delivering his “to be or not to be” soliloquy in the aisles of Blockbuster Video?), and  it works well here.  The actors are all young and hip, which fits the tone of the play.  Thompson and Branagh are a hard pair to beat as sparring partners Beatrice and Benedick (they did this film while still married), but Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker use more physical comedy, appear less lofty and are convincing as the couple destined to be together.   The comedy, which might be described as a combination of “‘Romeo and Juliet’  meets ‘Othello’ with a happy ending” (no spoiler intended, but the title kind of gives it away anyway).  The pace is wonderful, the black and white is beautiful and the music is spot on.  The masquerade scene does a superior job of communicating the mirth of the upper upper class much more convincingly than Baz Lurhman’s “Gatsby.”   Nathan Fillion steals the scenes as Dogberry (and I will say no more).  And that language!!!!!!!!

This is a Must See Movie!

jolyn wagner



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