Much Ado About Nothing (12A) | DVD Review

Much Ado About Nothing

Dir. Joss Whedon, US, 2012, 109 minutes

Cast: Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese

Review by Jonathon Hopper

You’ve got to hand it to Joss Whedon; when most people return from holiday all they have to show for it is a few snap shots and an oversized head adornment that’s destined to fester at the back of the wardrobe. When the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was contractually obliged to take a weeks break after wrapping up the filming of Avenger’s Assembled however, he shunned the sand, Sangria and sombreros, instead staying at home and inviting a few actorly friends over. Fast forward nearly two years and Joss Whedon’s holiday snaps are finally available to own on DVD and Blu-ray.

Combining modern dress with Shakespearian wordplay, Much Ado sets its stall in the aftermath of war and the first flushes of love. When victorious officers Benedick (Denisof – Avengers Assemble) and Claudio (Kranz – Diary of a Wimpy Kid) arrive at the home of the governor of Messina (Clark Gregg – Iron Man) in the company of Prince Don Pedro (Reed DiamondMoneyball) high spirits quickly turn amorous.

Claudio falls for governor’s daughter Hero (newcomer Morgese), a wedding is announced, and plans are hatched to make it a double by tricking dedicated bachelor Benedick and firebrand Beatrice (Acker – The Cabin in the Woods) into admitting their feelings for one another. But when the defeated Don John – who just happens to be Pedro’s brother – hears of the union, he launches a dastardly scheme to try and scupper the wedding and tear the young lovers apart.

Shot in twelve days between other projects, there’s an immediacy and a freshness about Whedon’s vision that’s helped in no small way by the setting. One could argue that certain aspects of the text appear incongruous in modern times (see Carol Allen’s review of the film’s theatrical release), but with time and money restrictions meaning the film was shot entirely in and around Whedon’s modern house the decision to update dress makes sense as well as helping to underscore the universal themes of love and betrayal.

With a terrific ensemble cast there are standout moments galore from gyrating trapeze artists at a masquerade (held for real at Casa de Whedon) to a jazz inflected sinister turn by Sean Maher as arch villain Don John, but it’s Denisof and Acker that threaten to steal the show as the quarrelsome former lovers, Claudio and Hero conspiring to unite them even as their own happiness is being undermined.

The DVD itself is light on extras with only a theatrical trailer and an informative and self-deprecating commentary from Joss Whedon to divert attention, but then given the film’s hectic and unusual history (Whedon describes location scouting as, “walking around my house with a cup of tea imagining Shakespeare”) there probably wasn’t time to line up a series of cast interviews.

The monochrome palette proving the perfect format for the shades of light and dark as the mood swings from gay to melancholic, Much Ado About Nothing is not just one Hell of a holiday movie, but one Hell of a movie. A witty, stylish and accessible adaptation of one of the Bard’s most enduring works, and there isn’t a shot of Aunt Betty in a sunhat in sight.

Much Ado About Nothing is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 7 October 2013.     

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