Forget Not That I Am An Ass

The 1993 adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing has always been a favorite of mine. Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson were a flawless Benedick and Beatrice, and 99% of the supporting cast did a stellar job as well. There was just that one thorn in the paw, and I'll bet you can guess what it is. I don't have a big, overall problem with Keanu Reeves. When he's in his wheelhouse, like in Speed or The Matrix, I'm more than satisfied with his performances. not his wheelhouse. I'm not sure what was hoped to be accomplished by casting him as Don John, but if they were aiming for anything but two decades of ridicule, they did not succeed.

Despite my loyalty to that "original", when I read that Joss Whedon was going to do a new adaptation, I was extremely excited. I only had two concerns, one of them minor. This movie was made in only twelve days, and at Whedon's house. If another director had pulled this, I'd be pretty suspicious that making this movie was an excuse to get financing to hang out and party with his friends for a couple of weeks. Whedon has never given me cause to think he'd pull that kind of stunt, so I dismissed that concern, though I wondered what effect such a rushed production would have on the final product. My other possible issue was adapting a Shakespearean story and Elizabethan speech to a modern setting, which can be jarring (I hated Romeo + Juliet). How can we watch characters who exist in the United States in 2013 casually discussing locking down a bride on someone else's behalf, or that a woman who isn't a virgin is better dead than wed?

Happily, my fears were quickly put to rest, because this was a terrific movie. It's beautifully shot in extremely crisp black and white. The staging within the house of an obviously wealthy but not ostentatious family worked perfectly for this play (HGTV fans, there is some serious real estate porn going on here). Far from ruining the movie, its setting in modern times allowed for some pretty clever adaptation changes. The conquering prince and his friends come home from a "war" that's implied to be corporate, rather than military. Conrade is no longer just Don John's henchman, she's now his girlfriend. And speaking of Don John, Sean Maher imbues him with a sexy menace that actually makes him a little intimidating, rather than a whiny cipher that the character often reads as. The update didn't get everything right. Alexis Denisof was a fine Benedick, but overplayed the big eavesdropping scene to the point that it was actively hammy. Also, I'm now pretty convinced that no matter who stages this story, and who is cast in the role, Hero will never be anything but a total drip. Some friends have suggested she's written that way on purpose, to make Beatrice and Benedick spark all the more. That would be an interesting debate to have, but as far as this movie goes, she's as big a drag as ever.

That's about it for complaints, though. Overall, this was a really fun, vibrant version of a terrific play, and unlike a lot of recent movies (even ones I enjoyed), I'm anxious to see it again at some point. People will no doubt be performing Shakespeare's works for the rest of humanity's reign, and for fans of the Bard, this is an eminently worthy member of the club.

Much Ado About Nothing: A-


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime