Monday, October 14, 2013

DVD of the Week: Much Ado About Nothing

It seems that sooner or later, everyone wants to have a go at Shakespeare. Its to the mans credit that he holds such a sway over the creative imagination of Western Culture, so many years later, when the language has changed, the cultural idioms have changed, and much else has changed, that many of his plays continue to be produced and adapted. Sure, some are less accessible than others, but on the whole, they seem to stand almost eternal, as a body of work that just keeps giving. This week we got to one of the more recent adaptations, Joss Whedon's take on Much Ado About Nothing.

The story behind this odd, stagey black-and-white version goes like this - taking a break from editing together The Avengers, Whedon gets together a bunch of his mates and, using his house as a set, films one of Shakespeare comedies. Because why not, right? Whedon being a proper Director, and most of the actors being proper actors, the quality is pretty solid so releasing it feels inevitable, and it hit the festival circuit running. And if you've been a Whedon fan of any sort you're going to recognize most of the cast, which is an additional little thrill for the likes of me and Z.

Much Ado About Nothing is the comedy that probably first established the trope of "bickering couple who will totally get together in the end", this time played by Amy Acker (Angel, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods) and Alexis Denisof (Angel, Dollhouse, technically The Avengers). The drive to put them together is that a local Prince, Reed Diamond (Dollhouse) comes to stay at a nobleman Clark Gregg (The Avengers, Agents of SHIELD) house, and one of his entourage Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods) falls for  Greggs daughter, played by Jillian Morgese (nothing! must be some sort of oversight!). The Princes nefarious brothers, Sean Maher (Firefly) orchestrates shenanigans, involving local inept plod Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Tom Lenk (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Everyone follow that?

OK, the plot isn't that complicated (unless you're distracted by playing "oh its him! from that!") and it's trimmed down to keep the focus on the comedy and keep the pace up. The main plot drama doesn't happen until quite late in the films running time, and feels resolved pretty quickly, so the sparring main couple remain the central plank, with Denisof and Acker having to carry most of it. And of course they're pretty good at it, as you're expect. In fact the casting is excellent all round; Whedon has quite the troupe to call on and makes good use of it, and it's especially nice to see actors playing against the type that he's used them for before, notably Fillion's talent for pompous comedy.

This is at heart a piece of fluff, a film made for relaxation and to have a bit of a laugh. However its a hugely enjoyable piece of fluff, and the choice of a comedy means that the relaxed air that must have pervaded on set shines through out the screen. Its not an essential watch, or definitive version of the play, but its worth seeking out for a relaxing, joyous couple of hours entertainment.