Published Sep 14, 2012It takes a particular sort of courage to adapt Shakespeare for the screen. After its necessity is questioned, the justification of the director's personal vision will be highly scrutinized. Moreover, it takes a special sort of humble whimsy to follow up one of the biggest films of all time (The Avengers) with a simple black & white comedy that appraises the pretence of using cynicism and naivety as impact barriers for the heart.
Genre wizard Joss Whedon (Serenity) demonstrates both qualities in his faithful, but playful take on the Bard's Much Ado About Nothing. Not a line of dialogue has been tweaked, but the setting of the romantic sparring has been updated to a pompous gathering of modern royalty and associated socialites. Just the dress, style of background music and the ability to show footage of an incident merely spoken of in the play, thanks to the magic of cell phone video, are different. Only the superficial has changed.
The jaded, defensive witticisms and ardent declarations of love are just as relevant as they've ever been, even if only a sampling of the comfortable cultural elite could get this caught up in titivating emotions. Whedon's keen, multifaceted sense of humour and ability to cleverly expose the tender hearts people try to hide behind their facades jive wonderfully with the comedic faux-tragedy of deceits driving the plot.
Both in performances and filmmaking, this production is oozing with witty, laidback charm, which is likely a by-product of its intimate construction. Past Whedon collaborators populate the majority of the cast and he's chosen cherished supporting players to take centre stage.
There are representatives from everything he's worked on, from team Angel, Amy Acker plays Beatrix against Alexis Denisoff's Benedick, to Firefly, a hilarious Nathan Fillion pursues Sean Maher as Dogberry and Don John, respectively. Representing both The Cabin in the Woods and Dollhouse is Franz Kranz as the lovelorn Claudio, while Dollhouse compatriot Reed Diamond plays the dangerously misled Don Pedro. Clark Gregg drops in from The Avengers camp to give life to Leonata. While the sole Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum is Tom Lenk, looking all kinds of ridiculous sporting a burly moustache and affecting a tough-cop stance as Dogberry's partner, Verges.
Everyone involved appears to be having a great time, especially Whedon, in his mischievous scene-setting and winking acknowledgement of the cumbersome phrasing of poetry as a manner of conversing as much as his loose, but poised direction of the exceptional cast.
If this is how the man relaxes, his next post-Marvel decompression will be another welcome, low-key joy. (Bellwether)