SFIFF 56: Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon

The bright spots: Nathan Filion as Dogberry; the Britanick guys playing Dogberry’s minions; a beautiful rendition (arranged by Joss Whedon) of “Sigh No More;” a fun, spontaneous and Shakespearean feel; and, wonderful, contemporary design direction – muted black-and-white, bossa nova, a quietly bourgeois house party, and an intimacy that feels right.

I generally enjoyed this film, but two weaknesses prevented me from truly being immersed in it. First, Much Ado About Nothing is not the best of Shakespeare’s comedies, and the awkward and ludicrous plot is magnified by its contemporary setting. I remembered why even the exuberant and highly polished Kenneth Branagh production could not hide the play’s structural flaws. Further, the actors, while game, have difficulty with Shakespeare’s verse – when some of them try for a relaxed feel, it comes out as intelligible. You miss many of the funny lines. The notable exceptions, however, include Alexis Denisof, who effortlessly brings Benedick to the 21st century, the Britanick guys, Ashley Johnson (as a wickedly witty Margaret), and Nathan Filion, who is the best Dogberry I’ve seen on stage or on film. Nonetheless, I am certain that this film will be successful this summer, regardless of whether you nerd out on Shakespeare or on Mr. Whedon; the latter has given us a film true to the Shakespearean spirit, full of cheerful romance, hilarious gags, and spontaneous theatricality.

Much Ado About Nothing. Dir Joss Whedon. Bellweather Pictures, 2012. In theatres 7th June.