The sad thing is that there wasn’t really much ado at all. In any sense of the word. No gossip, no fuss, no nothing. Joss Whedon’s adaptation was released on deaf ears and to minimal excitement from even his biggest fans. I could be wrong, but from where I’m sitting, it could have been ignored that it was ever released at all. Of course, between starting to write this and actually getting around to finishing it, Empire decided to show me up and name Much Ado their 25th best film of the year. Thanks for that, Empire.
My reaction to Much Ado come more from my own heart than any kind of informed critical opinion. Perhaps it isn’t up to me to offer you a formal review, then, but rather just to talk about it for a while. So let’s talk. Welcome, gentle viewers, to the most intimate, funny and heart warming film of the year.
When The Artist was released, there was a lot of hoo-ha and excitement over the fact that it was shot not only in black and white, but silent, too. Amazing! They said. Viewers of today still have the capability to concentrate for 100 minutes on a screen and pay attention to what’s going on! Of course, there were the few that demanded a refund because they were disappointed, but you can’t please everyone. With a teeny tiny budget and a cast of basically friends, Joss Whedon decided to go the extra mile with alienating his audience – Shakespeare. Without Baz Luhrmann colour and flair, Shakespeare can grate a little on the viewer. But this is a film that is not about the viewer at all. In a way it is, I suppose, very much aimed at his most seasoned viewer and fan. Somebody who has taken in enough Whedon over the years to appreciate every cameo and nod, somebody who was relieved to see Wesley and Fred’s happy ending. Even as that person, I felt a little alienated from Joss’ pet project. Much Ado was filmed in the house that his wife built, with his children always nearby. He shot it during brief breaks from The Avengers, with a cast of his closest friends and favourite actors. Everyone pitched together to make this film for love and family, which is enough to make any viewer feel a little left out.
So, Shakespeare. Universally understood as impossible to understand, nobody is ever too keen to sit through two hours of Shakespeare. As a former drama and English student, I thought myself up to the task. But it takes work. This is not a film that reveals itself all at once, rather, you have to really watch. If you listen closely and watch for every change in the actors’ faces, you start to understand. Even if you don’t really understand, you do. Much Ado was incredibly funny and heartwarming, it actually brought me to tears. It was beautiful, hilarious, and still entirely relevant.
There is a lot of criticism surrounding Joss Whedon that I regularly feel the need to address. His witticisms, Whedonisms and sarcasm for one. People believe him to be nothing without flash, money, or a fancy script full of words that nobody has ever used. I was pleasantly surprised by his little pet project, and I hope that everybody else will be sadly proven wrong. Much Ado was the most beautiful and intimate film of the year, showcasing talent in their most stripped back forms. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof excelled, as they always do, in their back and forth dialogue and immense onscreen chemistry. Despite their performance, the other lesser characters did not blend into the background.
Hopefully over time Much Ado About Nothing will develop a little more recognition and appreciation. It is intimate, hilarious, and proves once and for all that Joss Whedon isn’t a one trick pony. He writes, he directs, he composes…he even provided the set. Much Ado will perhaps offer more for the more seasoned Joss Whedon fan, but is still a treat for anyone willing to dedicate two hours of their time.