Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

I do not often go to first run movies, but I did hie me to the theater to see the latest film version of Much Ado About Nothing, and I'm mighty glad I did.

I've always loved the play. Well, I love the Beatrice and Benedick part of the play. That whole Claudio-Hero part? Just once I want to see the friar, or Hero's father, or Beatrice say "Dump him at the altar, babe. Find someone better."

But I have to say, in Joss Whedon's version, the shaming of Hero is less awful than it most often is. And it is to Whedon's credit that he made the villain Borachio's decision to recant his slander make much more sense.

Forgive me for leaping ahead with the assumption that you know what I'm talking about. In case you don't, Much Ado is a double love story: in the first, young Claudio returns from the war to find himself irresistibly drawn to the innocent Hero, the daughter and heir to Leonato. In the second, Beatrice and Benedick, who have known each other "of old", continue to protest how much they detest one another.   No one believes them and the group conspires to have them overcome their self-imposed obstacles.

It is the delight in watching Beatrice and Benedick overcome their defenses that makes the play the charmer it is. And in this version, and especially Amy Acker's performance, the painful and poignant mix of vulnerability and longing and wariness that plays on their faces is wonderful to behold.

Also wonderful to behold: Nathan Fillion's Dogberry, the Detective Malaprop of the play. He has the gestures of the TV detective down as he insists, "do not forget to specify, when time and place shall assert, that I am an ass." And then whips out his sunglasses and coolly places them on his face. Followed instantly by his assistant Verges. Dogberry is a difficult role to get right -- at least I have often found the role funny, but not memorable. This Dogberry is the best I've seen and one I will remember.

The film is all in a contemporary setting, which did jar with the first words of Shakespearean dialogue, and shot in black and white, which made it seem slightly harsh and edgy. But again the word that comes to me is delightful. It was delightful. And I would be delighted to see it again.

No comments: