This is the second cinematic adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s rom-com about a couple breathlessly falling in and out and in love with each other, and another couple doing everything they can do avoid breathlessly falling in love with each other. Both movies go about trying to capture the lighter-than-a-souffle spirit of Shakespeare’s play using completely different means. First was the 1993 pageant from Kenneth Branagh; now we have the 2013 cocktail party from Joss Whedon.
Branagh, ever the Shakespearean master, was going to put on a SHOW; it’s one of the most beautiful specimens of travel porn ever committed to film, shot in Tuscany in the summer and featuring a big name cast of gorgeous actors like Denzel Washington and Kate Beckinsale and Keanu Reeves and Emma Thompson. Branagh employs a huge, lush orchestral score by Patrick Doyle that completely envelops the viewer into the most cozy yet sensual of cocoons.
Whedon’s modern-dress version was shot over a period of twelve days at his house (don’t get me wrong, it’s a BEAUTIFUL house. But it’s no Tuscan villa.) He uses actors who are familiar faces in the “Whedonverse” (Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg) and they appear to be having a total blast. The score is a jazzy little number by Joss and Jed Whedon that beautifully complements the mood set by cinematographer Jay Hunter’s black and white photography.
Whedon’s version is light and fun, but it doesn’t stick with you like the Branagh adaptation. And I’m guessing Whedon has absolutely no problem with that. Branagh was attempting bring Shakespeare to the masses! Whedon, after helming the most enormous production of his career with The Avengers, just wanted to kick back, get his really talented friends together, and have a lark. It’s not all that different (in spirit, anyway) than all the DIY movies and shorts online, made by friends and shared with the world. The only difference is you have to pay to see this DIY movie. Is it worth the price of admission? That depends on your expectations.
It’s great when interpreters of Shakespeare refuse to handle the material with white gloves. Yes, he wrote some of the most important and insightful works of literature in the history of Western Civilization. And yes, his works will still be performed 400 years from now as they were 400 years ago. But it’s not like everything he wrote was a profound masterpiece. Much Ado About Nothing rides into each new century on the coattails of his greater works, but that’s okay. Not everything has to be an overwhelming twelve course meal. Sometimes, the perfect little creme brulee is all you need to make all feel right with the world.Follow @filmbyfelix