Film: Much Ado About Nothing
Director: Joss Whedon
Running Time: 109 minutes
Year of Release: 2012
Joss Whedon’s presence among the high-calibre selection of art films by the Perth International Arts Festival was one that I questioned. Where does the director of commercial popular culture phenomenons such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the more recent The Avengers film fit in with the high art culture of the festival? Would it work?
Watching Much Ado About Nothing, I was pleasantly surprised. Whedon’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic stage play is simply delightful. Filmed entirely at Whedon’s own lush Los Angeles home within twelve short days, the cast of the director’s own personal friends and colleagues performed the comedy with witty lines and welcome slapstick theatricality, particularly lead actors Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker. A warm film with a mildly intimate atmosphere and beautiful cinematography, it seems that Whedon’s signature subtle sense of humour has found its match in Shakespeare’s literature, presenting a timeless critique on love and courtship.
I must admit that I found the film to be a little trivial at first. I was half-expecting the play to be adapted to a contemporary context with more modern dialogue. Discriminating by his past works, I assumed that with his past commercial successes Whedon would want to appeal to a wider, perhaps less sophisticated, audience. Instead, the film is presented in black and white with the use of rather archaic treatment of language reflecting the times of a bygone era. My first impression was that it was a pretentious attempt at approaching Shakespeare, but it wasn’t until later in the film that I realised this was used for comic effect; it made sense, and it was hilarious, but it also meant that I didn’t really start enjoying it until halfway through the film. Unfortunately, the man next to me was so intoxicated by his B.Y.O. wine that he didn’t even make 20 minutes into the film.
Whedon also extends his talents as filmmaker beyond his directorial role, composing the film’s score and catchy soundtrack himself, setting music to Shakespeare’s original sonnets.
You don’t need to be a fan of Shakespeare to enjoy this movie. As long as you can warm up to the film and sit through it, it’s one that brings joy and will leave you with a smile.