I haven’t had a chance to blog about books in awhile because real life is getting in the way. Real life including the three movies I recently saw at the Toronto International Film Festival!
So, lucky you, you get a few movie mini-reviews before I get back to our regularly scheduled YA features:
Look, if you like Shakespeare, you should totally watch this movie. If you don’t like Shakespeare? You should still totally watch this movie. If you’re a Whedon fan? You should DEFINITELY watch this movie. This is Joss Whedon and Shakespeare stripped down to the basics. Shot in 12 days at Joss Whedon’s beautiful Malibu estate, with truckloads of booze (trust me, we can tell – the actors/characters are constantly pouring drinks, sipping from wineglasses and toasting each other), and no sets, contemporary clothes, and a whole lot of fun, this is a Shakespeare play for people who don’t like Shakespeare. Alexis Denisof is Benedick, and he absolutely steals the show with his performance. Amy Acker is Beatrice – I always thought she was witty in Angel, but she really does the verbal parry-and-thrust with Denisof incredibly well. Speaking of Angel – if you liked Fred and Wesley, you will LOVE this. As my viewing friend said, “It’s so good to see them on screen together again.”
This version of MAAN is chock-full of physical comedy and pretty music by Asian Whedon Maurissa Tancharoen. And like many Whedon projects, all of the usual suspects are there. Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods) does a pretty great job as Claudio, and I really enjoyed Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson to you Avengers lovers) as Leonato. Nathan Fillion is hilarious as Dogberry, and Tom Lenk is pitch-perfect as his assistant Verges.
Whedon does great justice to Shakespeare’s original words. The only parts that seemed incongruous were the ones that I feel a modern audience wouldn’t get to begin with:
1. The weirdness of Leonato basically telling Hero that she should die because she’s a shamed woman after Claudio accuses her of cheating. That totally didn’t work for a modern audience. Why is Leonato such a jerk to his daughter? Why doesn’t he stand up for her?
2. The weirdness of Hero’s clan deciding she should just pretend to be dead, because obviously, Claudio is going to think she’s dead now that she fainted. Yeah, that didn’t really work for a modern audience, either.
3. The fact that Leonato forces Claudio to marry Hero’s “cousin” to replace Hero – and that the cousin was supposed to be a lookalike to Hero. Holy cow. This is a mess in so many ways, and only something that would happen in a Shakespearean comedy.
How did Whedon deal with it? I think the only way he could – just get those parts over with and move on. It was almost like he totally acknowledged the weirdness of it, but was like, “Hey, this is, like, the loosest, chillest version of a Shakespeare play you’ll ever see. Half the actors are drunk. We’re filming this at my HOUSE. Just go with it.”
The thing is…for some reason, that really worked for me. I bought it. It’s still one of the best modern adaptations I’ve ever seen of this play. It wouldn’t have worked for one of my more beloved Shakespeare comedies – much less the tragedies – but then, maybe that’s why it did. This was fun, light, and full of love for Shakespeare. I think it really stands as a nice contrast to the lovely Kenneth Branagh version. It’s modern, it’s hip, and it’s just..right.
Have you seen the original Much Ado About Nothing movie with Kenneth Branagh? Excited to see Joss Whedon’s take? Let me know in the comments. And feel free to ask questions – I’m happy to answer general questions about how Whedon approached this adaptation.