There are times when certain films generate a buzz from their "behind-the-scenes" info - how much it cost, how long it took, locations used etc. Only a few of those rise above such focus and have the spotlight turned upon their performances and overall experience.
The little film made by the guy who delivered the 3rd biggest box office hit of all time is one such example. And the focus is... bloody good!
Let us dispense with the "behind-the-scenes" part shall we? During the two weeks between the end of filming and beginning of editing Avengers Assemble, Joss Whedon made Much Ado About Nothing. In 12 days, using his own home as the only location and a cast littered from friends made up from his creator/writer/director history with basic cameras and avoiding such things as lighting, Whedon once again has shown that ensemble pictures are definitely his bag. Even if it is The Bard's work and for once not his own!
What Whedon has done here is make a Shakespeare film for people who don't do Shakespeare. By "Shakespeare" I mean the use of the original prose (such as seen in Baz Lurhmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet) as opposed to dialogue "based on" the Bard's works (like 10 Things I Hate About You.) Now, that doesn't mean that you will be able to sit down and understand word for word the various monologues and back-and-forth's between the characters such as Beatrice and Benedict. What you will be able to do however, is get the gist of what is going on more than you may have done in previous adaptations.
This is down to Whedon's clever use of his chosen actors and the delivery that he gets out of them. Most of them "Whedonites"- they have worked with him through the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Cabin In The Woods, Avengers Assemble - it is their obvious ease with the material that makes it so easy to accept for the audience and then go along with throughout the proceedings. Their speed, inflection, tone, interaction - it all seems just so natural. Bearing in mind that they used to meet at Whedon's home and do read through's of Shakespeare for fun during downtime on his previous projects, you would expect nothing less than seamless perfection from them at handling the often-thought-of "hard going" material. All this from the man who made vampires cool before Team Edward was even thought of and who made a Western in space before others tried to make sci-fi genre-mashing cool.
Admittedly, Much Ado About Nothing is one of the easier entries into Shakespeare's world - the comedy about love and its secrets and lies sits somewhat better on the untrained pallet than the tragedy and consequences of a King - but it is still none-the-less a tall order to try and pull off successfully so that connoisseur's and freshman's alike are both suitably wooed and left satisfied.
With an emphasis on the two "L's" - laughter and lust - the tale of two would-be lovers is played out in a black-and-white dream-like state. Drinks are ALWAYS on hand (and indeed in hand) throughout as the players move around each other (both known/seen and unknown/unseen) as plots are hatched and hearts broken. Here, sex and sexy are evident and evidently abundant in this modern setting where news travels fast via smart phones and iPads rather than horse and parchment.
For those who have followed Whedon's work, his cast are superb. The sheer delight in watching the tom-foolery of Amy Acker's Beatrice as she overhears news of Benedict's love is grin-inducing, with a pratt fall to match any of that from Inspector Clouseau. Likewise, Alexis Densiof's cocky-and-then crumbling confidence when he overhears of Beatrice's love has some of the best peering-through-windows work since Rowan Atkinson was in his prime. Fran Kranz shows that his hyper-geek from both Dollhouse and Cabin In The Woods is not the only entry in his CV with the tortured soul of Claudio both believable and understandable whilst normally Mr Nice Guy Sean Maher as seen in Firefly does a lovely 180 and is deliciously evil as the havoc-wrecking Don John. As of course it should be, the best comedy comes from Captain Hammer / C'ptn Tightpants (Malcolm Reynolds) himself - Nathan Fillion. As Dogberry (along with Buffy's Tom Lenk) you will never see a better or more over-repeated use of the word "ass" as long as you live. And trust me, you will be a better person for it!
Delightful. Delicious. Devious. Do see it!
UK release date: 14.06.13