Much Ado About Nothing
Directed by Joss Whedon, US, 2013
“Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No! The world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.”
– William Shakespeare, from “Much Ado About Nothing,” Act II, Scene III
When most people think of romance in Shakespeare, they think of “Romeo and Juliet.” Enough ink has been spilled over the years arguing that the best example of real romance in the Bard’s work is instead in the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.” Indeed, thousands of college essays have been written that point out that the romance between Claudio and Hero in Much Ado is a send-up of Romeo and Juliet. Of course, it is not Claudio and Hero, who mostly vehicles of plot and satire, that we remember from Much Ado, but rather Beatrice and Benedict.
The 1993 Kenneth Branagh version of the play is truer to Shakespeare’s vision, since it is set in the same time period as the play. That does not make it a better film that Whedon’s version, however, especially since it is always easier to do Shakespeare as period-piece than set it in the present day. As 2000’s “Hamlet” (the one set in New York), 2001’s “O,” 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, and 1995’s Richard III demonstrate, this concept has had decidedly mixed results.
Much Ado’s snappy dialogue, however, lends itself better to a modern setting than the aforementioned tragedies and history plays. It helps when the newer version is directed by the modern king of snappy dialogue and ensemble casts – Joss Whedon.
After remembering that it takes a scene or two for the mind to adjust to Shakespeare’s English, I thoroughly enjoyed Whedon’s adaptation. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisoff are great as Beatrice and Benedict, a younger casting for the duo than the Branagh version which is probably more attuned with what Shakespeare had in mind (you can’t really ask him, he’s been dead for almost 400 years).
You might like Much Ado About Nothing if: You like the original play, the 1993 Kenneth Branagh adaptation, or romantic comedies in general.
You might not like Much Ado About Nothing if: You don’t like Shakespeare, but even if you don’t, you might still want to give this one a chance before leaving the Bard completely behind.
(c) 2013 D.G. McCabe