David and I recently got to go see Joss Whedon’s interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing. I have been looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I first heard that Joss had created it. I was excited for a couple of reasons. One of them being my love of Much Ado About Nothing in general the other being that it was Joss and all his closest friends at his house Doug Shakespeare. Making the whole concept pretty brilliant.
Now I am a big fan of the Kenneth Branagh version. Branagh is an amazing Benedict and I adore Emma Thompson in general. So I was really interested in seeing how Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker chose to play these iconic roles. I have to say the Joss Whedon is different enough as a modern interpretation that it is really difficult to compare the two, although there are some interesting differences between some of the performances.
Big Character Differences
So actually the biggest character difference was they changed one of Don John’s cohorts into a woman. It made for a very interesting playing of the two characters because the female sidekick was a sexual interest with Don John. It brought a different feeling to the characters, but using the same words. It just put a different twist on the characters and their interactions. It was also great to see them playing with swapping the gender of a character. It is a minor enough character that it does not make a huge different, but it is nice to see that they did not stick to the strict gender roles from the play.
One of the other pieces with the characters that was potentially implied in the play, although I did not pick up on it, was a relationship between Beatrice and Benedict before the whole situation at the house. In Joss’ version it is very explicit that Beatrice and Benedict had, not a full relationship, but a fling. The modern version is probably a fling and in Shakespeare time it was probably a flirtation that maybe had the thought of growing, but as we all know Benedict is abhor to actually marry. The nice thing it did is created a bit more of a history between Beatrice and Benedict to explain why they eventually marry each other and become so infatuated.
Use of Space
The other amazing thing about how this movie was put together, if I am remembering correctly, is that it was all filmed in Joss’ house. The house is large enough that you get quite a few different scenes, but you can still tell you are in one house. There are definitely a couple scenes that feel a little cramped, but with the situation they present it makes sense. They are the guard of the Prince, basically a diplomat, so they cannot really just go wandering around town. They have planned a wedding quickly, so the backyard is the place to put it on.
One of the more funny moments is during the evening party scene there is a conversation that takes place in the pool. It is just such a hilarious moment because it is Don John trying to cause mischief and his head pops out of the pool with his minions and it is just this great little scene. Also, it is great use of space because there are only so many places they could film and so to use the pool to be able to do one of the scenes was well done.
The above are the biggest things I noticed, but along the way there were just some great moments that make the movie memorable and re-watchable. One of the things is Nathan Fillion as the constable. He basically comes in as a head of some security detail so it is great to see him be the bumbling constable. They set up their office in some basement room so they could do a whole set up with all of the security. It was really hilarious because he was not over the top just straight faced about the whole thing.
On other scene that was particularly amusing was when they are trying to let Benedict / Beatrice know about the other’s “love” without them actually knowing. The use of windows and shrubbery made the whole scenes hilarious. Alexis Denisof’s and Amy Acker’s physicality with hiding behind things and peaking behind corners was hilarious. I really do not want to explain too much, but it really is a brilliant scene worth watching.
I think what this comes down to is everyone needs to see this movie. It is a great modern interpretation of the play and for the most part they took the words straight from the play. There were maybe one or two times that I noticed a subtle change, but otherwise the words worked. Some of that I think comes down to how they chose to tell the story and the brilliant acting of all those involved. Everyone was amazing, but I really did love seeing Clark Gregg in a different role after Agent Coulson and it makes me excited to see him on Agents of Shield.