In a world where movies try to appeal to the broadest variety of tastes, one film dares to play to… like, two or three of them.
After delivering what most would call “the most awesomest movie ever,” Joss Whedon has tapped into his more scaled back side and given us his rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Filmed at his home over roughly two weeks, Whedon’s adaption of the Bard’s story of love, treachery and comedy is all black and white and features regulars of the Whedon universe, such as Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, and Amy Acker, among many others.
There’s no mistaking this is Whedon’s work — the comedic relationship he has with his troupe of familiars is as stellar as ever, with their humor breaking through the gap of them speaking in the original iamic pentameter and giving the movie that familiar Whedon stamp. It’s thanks to this that the movie isn’t the completely stiff adaption one might think of when Shakespeare comes to mind.
Scaled back efforts have their perks but they also have their pitfalls. In order to fully appreciate Much Ado About Nothing, it feels as if you need to be a fan of Shakespeare, art-house films and the Whedon-verse. In appealing only to such specific tastes, it’s like there’s a hefty wall of separation between the viewer and the movie.
This isn’t a modern Shakespeare adaption you would want to start off with. By keeping the original speech in a modern setting, Whedon’s assuming you’ve already been familiarized with the story and the point is to notice his take on it. For those who have not been overly familiarized with the story, it’s going eventually prove difficult to keep up in deciphering the dialogue and some may even give up.
As if becoming detached due to the vernacular wasn’t enough, the whole tone of the movie is almost made to be looked at from a distance. Filming in black and white in one location with the director’s closest group of friends gives the vibe of being a senior film student’s final project; a cool, collected inside effort by the main creative mind and his people that can only be fully enjoyed by those belonging to all three groups and simply appreciated to varying degrees by others.
However, Whedon’s strong ability to amuse seeps through and keeps the film from being too removed. He knows just how to get his actors to deliver the lines in a way that speaks volumes (and writes a few good tunes as well).
Odds are most of you won’t see this arrive at your local theater and that’s ok. Unless you belong to all three interest groups and have decided you need to rush out and see it, there’s really no reason to spend money on theater prices. Nothing about it screams that it needed to be in theaters in the first place. You will not lose anything if you only view it at home.
Whedon’s adaption isn’t bad. There’s maybe 20 minutes before it ends that stretch on forever and that’s about all that needs to be said negatively on a technical level. In all fairness, its solid performances are what to watch for. But for most people it is a movie that will be appreciated more than enjoyed and if you don’t belong to all three demographics, you may sense the distinct feeling that you’re not part of the club.