“Nothing” Is Something: The 2013 “Much Ado About Nothing”

Joss Whedon filmed, with a contemporary setting, Much Ado About Nothing, a 2013 release.

In writing about a stage production of Shakespeare’s comedy, John Simon averred that “Much Ado is a shrewd play in which comedy and near-tragedy chase each other like a kitten and its tail until they are revealed to be the same organism: the scheme of things as they are.”  This organism is not perfectly created by Whedon; the scheme is not quite communicated.  It would have helped had he refrained from using a good deal of rueful music, although this alone would have been insufficient.

Even so, the movie is meritorious, with a shrewdness of its own (but just not a thorough shrewdness).  Up to a point it’s Shakespeare as a 1960s art film, shot in black and white, and an unforced, unself-conscious Shakespeare it is.  It is frequently funny and, thanks to Whedon, not over-sensual.  Alexis Denisof, dignified without arrogance, is exactly right for Benedick, and Amy Acker is an intelligent Beatrice with some skill in physical comedy.  Both are impeccable, as are Nathan Fillion (Dogberry) and indeed most of the other histrions.  Much Ado is an alloyed, but not sorely alloyed, treat.

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