Sunday, July 7, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing (Rhoades)

“Avengers” Director Makes
“Much Ado About Nothing”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” has to take the prize for the most self-deprecating title of all time. Of course, there’s much to ado about. Written around 1598 or 1599, this play is considered one of the greatest comedies of all time. As the critics describe it, the masterpiece “combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honor, shame, and court politics.” In short, it’s a joyful comedy that ends with multiple marriages and no deaths.
The play has been filmed several times, going back to a 1913 silent version. The first sound version was the highly acclaimed 1993 film by Kenneth Branagh. The 2001 Hindi film “Dil Chahta Hai” was a loose adaptation of the play.
Now we have a new rendition directed by wunderkind Josh Whedon. It’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
You might think Josh Whedon an odd choice to be putting on a play by Shakespeare. After all, he’s the warped mind behind that “Buffy the Vampire Killer” TV show and its “Angel” spinoff. And he created the sci-fi TV show “Firefly.” Also he directed the sci-fi movie “Serenity” and the horror flick “The Cabin in the Woods.” What’s more, he has written numerous comic books, ranging from Dark Horse’s “Fray” to Marvel’s “Astonishing X-Men.”
Oh yes, he also wrote and directed “Marvel’s Avengers,” the $1.5 billion blockbuster that is the third highest grossing film of all time.
So why Shakespeare?
It was a pet project.
“Over the years Whedon had colleagues over to sit in his den and read Shakespeare aloud,” confides a friend. “It was kind of a palate-cleanser -- and a goad to do better in their own work.”
“You would just go over on a Sunday in flip flops and a t-shirt and read the plays, and there was something really relaxing and special about it,” recalls actress Amy Acker. “We had talked about doing something to share these readings, he’s always said ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if we could film these somehow?’”
No one took him seriously.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is a modern-day adaption of Shakespeare, kind of like a home movie filmed at Whedon’s Santa Monica house using a handful of American actors. Mostly young actors who’ve appeared in his TV shows.
“It’s a big collaboration,” says Amy Acker. “I think that’s why he cast so many people that he had worked with before, because it was a sure-hand way for him being able to throw out ideas and everyone feeling comfortable to bring their own stuff.”
Watching the film, you’d think Shakespeare’s verse is the way they normally talk.
The shoot only took 12 days.
Amy Acker and Alex Denisof play the bickering ex-lovers Beatrice and Benedict. Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz are cast as Hero and Claudio, who are plotting to keep Beatrice and Benedict apart. Nathan Fillion plays constable Dogberry like a TV cop.
“Nobody really knew it was going to be a real movie,” swears Acker.
“I thought he was going to film us sitting around reading, nods Fillion. “I thought, This will be low pressure!”
Kranz agrees. “I really believed that too. Then the first A.D. emailed me asking for my social security, and I wrote back, ‘Are we getting paid for this?’”
Not much it turns out.
“I spent more on babysitters than whatever that check was,” admits Denisof. “But I’d do it all again.”
The result is possibly the best cinematic version ever of a Shakespeare comedy.
Much ado about nothing indeed.

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