Saturday, April 27, 2013

SFIFF: Much Ado About Nothing



This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

When I was in high school, I took a Shakespeare class, and we read about six plays. After we finished a play, the teacher would screen a movie version. He would take votes as to which version we wanted to watch, and when it came to The Tempest, I suggested we watch Forbidden Planet. He had never actually heard of it, but agreed to screen it for us.

And when it was finished, he was kind of pissed.

That wasn't a faithful adaption! What was I thinking? He made me write an essay explaining every connection between the film and the play, and I am proud to say, I got a B+. (And frankly, I think he was just trying to save some face by not giving me an A.)

I bring this up because when it comes to adaptations of Shakespeare, I still prefer more..."modern" takes on the Bard. And I mean really modern; the kind that doesn't use the original text as much as general plot. Which is why I found it surprising how enjoyable I found Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing to be.

The basic story behind its production is that it was filmed (in lovely black-and-white) in about two weeks at Joss Whedon's house in Santa Monica, featuring many from his usual cadre of talent, including Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Tom Lenk, and Nathan Fillion, (who, by far, gives the funniest performance in the film).

While it is set in modern day, the movie's dialogue comes strictly from the play (more or less). This can take a little getting used to at first, but eventually, as tends to be the case with Shakespeare, you adjust, and it makes perfect and delightful sense. Yes, this is a Shakespeare adaption both I and my former English teacher would approve of.

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