The following is a review I wrote for Thread, a new publication on the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. Pick up a copy if you’re in the area, or you can visit their blog version here. Hopefully this will be a somewhat regular thing, so support a really cool new thing!
Somewhere amidst making The Avengers (one of the biggest films of all time), director Joss Whedon, apparently on a whim, gathered a bunch of friends to his house in Hollywood. His plan was to adapt another literary work, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, about as far from mega-budget tentpole filmmaking as you can get.
Casting the film with familiar stars from previous work and soaking the whole thing in gallons of wine, Whedon pulls off Much Ado with aplomb. One of the Bard’s breeziest comedies, the film takes place over the course of a few days and concerns two vastly different couples each approaching romance in their unique way.
Hero (Jillian Morgese) and Claudio (Fran Kranz), the doe-eyed pair arranged to be wed by their high powered fathers, are hindered by the scandalous meddling of Don John (Sean Maher) and his troublesome cronies. Theirs is a relationship typical of Shakespeare’s lighter work, all misunderstanding and melodrama, and Morgese in particular suffers through her bland role.
Where Much Ado comes alive however is in the relationship of Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker). Gifted with some of the sharpest, funniest dialogue in literary history, the pair dominate the film, with Denisof’s roguish, sarcastic charm the perfect counterpoint to Acker’s wonderful, star-making turn. The chemistry between them is like a lightning bolt right into the heart of the story, and it’s pure joy to watch them bicker and banter.
It’s impressive that Whedon could so expertly segue from the pinnacle of blockbuster filmmaking to such an intimate work as Much Ado, but the film feels like a truly collaborative effort, the output of a few friends with the talent and the time. You’re unlikely to have more fun in the cinema all year.