Yes, I am going to jump on the nerd bandwagon and tell you to go now and see this tiny little indie gem, from Joss Whedon and friends… Much Ado About Nothing. But let me be serious for a moment- go now. Get up from your computer and go. Well, go now if you live in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Go on June 21st for the rest of the US. And honestly, I forget the date for the UK etc. So look it up and go.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is my favorite Shakespeare play. I fell in love with it in high school, when the Kenneth Branagh film was released. Til tonight that was my definitive interpretation.
Joss’s vision was stunning- modern setting, Shakespeare’s words, and friends cast in all the roles. I first heard about the film conspiratorially from one of the cast members prior to filming. Not naming names, sorry. But… I was giddy for MONTHS. Until it was finally announced that this project had happened. It wasn’t just a fantastical story I’d been told. It really had happened. And someday, come hell or highwater, I would get to see it.
If you’ve never read the play, or seen a film version, let me break down the story for you. Benedick, a confirmed bachelor, and Beatrice, a sharp tongued woman, hate each other. His friend, Claudio, loves her cousin, Hero, and eventually they are betrothed. The villain of the piece, Don Jon (the bastard son), conspires to ruin everyone’s lives. Succeeds. There’s a side piece where everyone works together to convince Beatrice and Benedick that the other loves them. Which works. Back to the ruination- things go bad, things look worse, and finally things go right. This isn’t one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. This is a comedy. And it ends well. This is not a spoiler (and if you want to argue that fact with me, please stop what you are doing and go read something- the play has been around for four hundred years. It’s not new). That’s the basics. Add in the hilariousness of a constable, that is essentially too stupid to live (and an ass), and his deputy and you have a recipe for a brilliant time.
The film, shot on a shoestring budget which included being filmed in less than two weeks using the director’s own home as a set, is brilliant. It’s simple. It’s magical. It’s alive. It’s art. The black and white film adds to the piece- rather than detracts from it, the way so many films are ruined by too many special effects or 3D. The viewer is part of the world instead of pushed out. I just saw it, with my dear friend Briel, and I already want to go back.
I’m sad to say that not all patrons will have the same experience I did. I mean, you’ll get the film and love it- I dare you not to. But a unique aspect of living in one of the cities the film premiered in today is that the director and some of the cast are doing Q&A’s following some of the screenings. Joss, Amy Acker (a divine Beatrice), Alexis Denisof (delightful as Benedick), Clark Gregg (Leonato, Hero’s father), and Tom Lenk (Verges, the constables right hand man/deputy) all came in to my screening. They answered a few questions about the process of filming, the script, working at their bosses house. The one audience question was whether the booze was real- no (I don’t count the girl who stood up wanted to give her business card to Joss- that wasn’t a question, and also, wow, super unprofessional!). The moderator initially mis-introduced Amy as “Amy Adams” which Clark teased him about through the entire thing. It was amusing to note that of all the guests there, only Tom had never died in a Whedon project (though… did we see his character’s end in Cabin in the Woods?)(Oh, and if anyone sees Nathan Fillion (fabulous as Dogberry, btw) remind him he owes Tom a new jacket).
The bits of physical comedy from Acker and Denisof as they spy on their friends are perfect and hilarious. Almost pee your pants funny. Add in the perfect moments between Fillion and Lenk… Honestly, this film is a perfect blend of classic and new- mixing period language, almost period dress, and iPhones. The actors and their performances are strengthened by this combination. It’s a beautiful thing. Not sure anyone else could’ve done it.
Oh… and this is clearly a mark of good acting but I hate that I dislike a character played by the adorable Sean Maher so much. His Don Jon is fabulously villainous.
The moral of my post is this- you need to support quality filmaking, not just the same ol’ crap studios dump on us. Go see this film.