Trending
MOST READ
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology

Astrology: ARIES (March 21-April 19): In the coming weeks it will be important for you to bestow blessings and disseminate gifts and dole out helpful... By Rob Brezsny 8/27/2014
Savage Love: Working Out the Kinks

Savage Love: Working Out the Kinks

Arts & Culture: My boyfriend of two years cannot climax or maintain an erection unless his testicles are handled, squeezed, pulled, or pressed on... By Dan Savage 8/27/2014
Best Hookah Bar

Best Hookah Bar

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
How Rebates Have the Texas Film Industry Playing Catch Up To its Neighbors

How Rebates Have the Texas Film Industry Playing Catch Up To its Neighbors

Screens: See if you can spot the common thread that is pulling at the seams of the Texas film industry. On NBC’s The Night Shift, a stock-written staff... By Matt Stieb 8/27/2014
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Screens

Joss Whedon Updates ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Shakespeare gets wet — Claudio (Fran Kranz) in Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing


Is it an attempt to force some culture onto the Comic-Con nerds? William Shakespeare did, after all, invent the notion of meeting-cute. And who better to appreciate Beatrice and Benedick’s smart-alecky badinage than Joss Whedon?

Shot over 12 days at his Santa Monica mansion, The Avengers director’s let’s-put-on-a-show Shakespearean house party is stocked with so many regulars from his television series (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse), it’s hard not to view Much Ado About Nothing as a weekend acting retreat for veterans of geek TV. The no-frills camera work, black and white palette, and easy camaraderie between cast members makes for an intimate and infectiously good time. Kenneth Branagh’s sun-drenched film adaptation set in a Tuscan villa still sits atop the heap, but Whedon’s charming ensemble acquits itself respectably, finding the comic heart of male vanity and female assertiveness, as well as a few dark grace notes along the way.

Set in the present, Whedon kicks things off with a wordless and ill-advised prologue that suggests that the center pair had a drunken one-night stand, after which Benedick snuck away, thus stoking Beatrice’s sharp-tongued anger. This conflict is set against a masquerade ball wherein Leonato (Clark Gregg) is celebrating the arrival of Don Pedro (Reed Diamond). The two patriarchs encourage their children, Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese) to be married, and the lovestruck kids are all too happy to comply. Unfortunately, Don Pedro’s brother Don John (Sean Maher) decides to undermine the impending nuptials by convincing Claudio that his betrothed is a promiscuous hussy. Confusions and complications, as they say, ensue.

Much Ado is a smart choice for Whedon to wet his Shakespearean whistle on, as the story offers up competing agendas, witty exchanges, and slapsticky situations all under a single roof. There are no great battles or exotic locales to recreate, just the ever-shifting allegiances of lovers, family members, and interlopers. Though his upper-middle class suburban setting sometimes feels a bit cramped, Whedon makes good use of the space at hand. His staging is clever yet modest, providing just enough comic possibilities for his dedicated cast.

Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof tackle the key roles of Beatrice and Benedick, the hot-blooded couple whose insults and arguments mask their true feelings for one another. (What would rom-coms today be without Willy S’s comedic template?) Given the actors’ past collaborations, the two should be a good match, but only Acker truly shines, masterfully balancing Beatrice’s feminine doubts with a wicked wit. Denisof (a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company) is a bit too stiff and understated to capture Benedick’s prickley bravado, never generating the sparks necessary to ignite the infatuation that hides behind the couple’s stated hatreds.

The rest of the cast gives confident and conscientious performances, with Gregg standing out as Hero’s father and Nathan Fillion delivering a memorably comical turn as the dim-witted Constable Dogberry.

What’s mostly missing from this entertaining cinematic doodle is Whedon’s personal connection to the material. While he does a wonderful job of pruning the Bard’s plot entanglements and highlighting the play’s effervescent exchanges, the beloved filmmaker doesn’t bring anything revelatory to the table. That’s odd considering his television shows’ deft handling of gender politics. One would think that Much Ado’s subversive attacks on masculine pride would prove fertile ground for Whedon’s trademark dismantling of male-female archetypes. This incongruity becomes especially clear when Hero’s wedding is undone by a bunch of angry men accusing her of being a whore. I can’t think of a woman in the entire Buffy-verse who would put up with that shit for a minute.

Much Ado About Nothing

Dir. Joss Whedon; writ. William Shakespeare, Joss Whedon; feat. Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz (PG-13)
At Santikos Bijou

Recently in Screens & Tech
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus