Dir/scr: Joss Whedon. US. 2012. 107mins
A warm, funny and breezy contemporary version of William Shakespeare’s comedy of love and misunderstanding Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon’s impressively made film sees him pulling together a stock company of performers who have worked with him in the past and coming up with a film that will work for Whedon fans and may also impress lovers of the Bard.
The fact that Joss Whedon also produced, co-edited and provided the music score is testimony to his whole-hearted commitment.
Presented in black-and-white, the film was pulled together in the brief bit of holiday Whedon had between wrapping principal photography of Marvel’s The Avengers and starting on post-production, with Whedon shooting the entire film at his Los Angeles home in just under 12 days.
Clearly very much a labour of love – the influence of Shakespeare can be seen in Whedon’s television work over the years – his adaptation of this accessible, romantic and funny play is entertaining and pacy, with his core cast (and Nathan Fillion in particular) playing to Whedon’s loyal supporters. Audience familiarity to so many well-known – especially in TV – faces will help release, though it is notoriously hard (as Ralph Fiennes found with Coriolanus last year) to break out to mainstream audiences.
Set in modern day, Leonato (Clark Gregg, from Marvel’s The Avengers) is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), who is accompanied by two of his officers, Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). While at his house, Claudio falls heavily for Leonato’s daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese) while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice (Amy Acker), Leonato’s niece.
With a marriage between Claudio and Hero planned, Don Pedro’s evil brother Don John (Sean Maher) plots to cause trouble by destroying the marriage before it can even happen, while at the same time – and with more than a little cajoling from those around them – Benedick and Beatrice start to fall in love. With comic and tragic events waiting in the wings, the stage is set for two couples to try and find a way to love and happiness.
Amy Acker (who starred in Buffy The Vampire Slayer spin-off Angel, as well as the Whedon produced Dollhouse and recent film The Cabin In The Woods) and Alexis Denisof (from Buffy and Angel) are thoroughly charming a Beatrice and Benedick, and especially at ease in some broadly played comedy moments. Equally striking is newcomer Jillian Morgese as Hero, who was spotted by Whedon working as an extras on Marvel’s The Avengers.
Nathan Fillion (from TV hit Castle, and who starred for Whedon on TV in Buffy, Firefly and its theatrical spin-off Serenity) is a delight as ‘law enforcer’ Dogberry, with he and his on-screen partner Tom Lenk (from Buffy) hitting the comedy sweetspots and really playing to audience.
The fact that Joss Whedon also produced, co-edited and provided the music score is testimony to his whole-hearted commitment to something that to all appearances is small and niche, but yet which could well play the festival circuit as well as benefiting from strong word of mouth from the substantial Whedon fan base.
Production company: Bellweather Pictures
Sales contact: CAA, www.caa.com
Producer: Joss Whedon
Executive producer: Kai Cole
Co-producer: Daniel S Kaminsky
Cinematography: Jay Hunter
Editors: Daniel S Kaminsky, Joss Whedon
Production designers: Cindy Chao, Michele Yu
Music: Joss Whedon
Main cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Reed Diamond, Clark Gregg, Tom Lenk, Ashley Johnson, Riki Lindhome, Spencer Treat Clark