Movies
6:29 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing
Grade: A-
Director: Joss Whedon (The Avengers)
Screenplay: Whedon, Shakespeare
Cast: Amy Acker (The Cabin in the Woods), Alexis Denisof (The Avengers)
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 107 min.
by John DeSando

“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.” Much Ado about Nothing

Deception for good and bad is the stuff of the popular Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado about Nothing. Joss Whedon’s modern dress adaptation preserves in lovely fashion the Bard’s meanings while making them readily applicable to modern times. The airy location at Whedon’s Santa Monica estate, with its easily overheard conversations, allows men and women to deceive and be deceived and be caught but not fast enough to prevent some major hurt.

The battle of the sexes is best evidenced in the verbal roughhousing of Benedick (Alex Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker): “I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue” (Benedick). The battle takes a grim toll when evil Don John (Sean Maher) sets up Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillian Morgese) for her infidelity and his refusal to marry her because of it. Contrarily, deception brings Beatrice and Benedick into a loving relationship, so the game of love is apace and indiscriminate.

Shakespeare has it both ways, a considerable feat, to bring the right lovers together and punish those who would destroy the love. The film shows in revealing angles (those bird’s eye shots from the ceiling area are effective giving the overheard and peeping-tom points of view) and close-ups the ambiguities of love. Even when Benedick falls under love’s aegis, that state continues to be difficult for both him and his love.

The striking black and white strips the romance of unnecessary frivolity while reminding the audience of the halcyon days of screwball repartee that such stars as Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant made high art:

Beatrice: “I would not deny you, but by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption.”

Benedick: “Peace. I will stop your mouth.”

Shakespeare plays out the battle of the sexes with his genial finesse, never forgetting the divisive nature of love:

“Friendship is constant in all other things, save in the office and affairs of love.” Claudio

Although I am a lifelong devotee of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation, Whedon’s takes a comfortable place in my favorite canon.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com