All assemble for Joss' stellar Shakespeare
Film Review: Much Ado About Nothing (No Cert, IFI, 107 minutes) 4 STARS
Director: Joss Whedon Stars: Amy Acker, Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg
It is a flabbergasting fact that Joss Whedon knocked out this stylish and effortlessly intelligent Shakespearean adaptation while
simultaneously occupied with directing the $220m superhero blockbuster Avengers Assemble.
How he found space in his head for both projects defeats me, and on the face of it the two films have absolutely nothing in common. Except, perhaps, for their emphasis on character.
Watching Avengers Assemble, I suspected at times that Whedon was bored by action scenes (the half-hour climactic battle certainly bored the hell out of me) and much more exercised by the comic interplay between a group of egotistical superheroes.
The naggy disputes between Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Bruce Banner were by far the best thing about that bloated but sometimes entertaining film, and had a comic spark that reminded me of classic screwball comedies.
That Cary Grant mood is even more to the fore in this delightful and playfully imaginative adaptation.
Whedon's Much Ado is set in the affluent present, and stars Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker as Benedick and Beatrice, two apparent cynics who seem to dislike each other and engage in harsh parries. "It is certain I am loved of all ladies," declares the strutting Benedick, "only you excepted..." But Beatrice is always stolidly unimpressed. "I would rather hear my dog bark at a crow," she replies, "than a man swear he loves me."
The truth, of course, is that they're mad about each other, and their tortured romance is counterpointed by the more straightforward passion between Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese), who love each other so much they come over all gooey every time they lay eyes on one another. Reed Diamond has great fun as the oily villain Don Pedro, and Nathan Fillion is very good as the verbose but goodhearted Dogberry.
Who could have guessed that the inventor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have such a natural feel for Shakespeare?
He and his actors bring the bard's sparkling comedy smoothly and stylishly to life, and Whedon's decision to shoot in black and white somehow makes the modern-day setting work. It's a lovely little film, warm, witty and wise