Much Ado About Nothing (12A)

Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Riki Lindhome
Picturehouse @ FACT
From 14th June 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Canned Heat

Adapted for the 21st Century screen, Director Whedon's take on Shakespeare's comedy builds on the Bard's own updating of at least two earlier Italian prose works translated into English, Bandello's Novelle (1576) and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1591).

Whedon's imagination sets to work here too, both through poetic licence and radical transformation of time and place as Messina, in 1599 Sicily, is transported to his own rambling mansion in Santa Monica, California.

The film, in ethereal black and white, was completed over 12 days of down time from blockbuster duty and takes place in modern day America. Stretch limos, smart phones, sharp clothes and gated community surveillance cameras are all here, in high profile. They do not always lie easily with the anachronistic language and the delivery of speech required, despite a healthy pruning of the original text.

The Director's invention turns one of the characters, Conrad, into female Conrade (Lindhome), upping the lust factor at a stroke, and an imagined previous liaison ensures that the bickering romance between Beatrice (Acker) and Benedick (Denisof) increasingly takes centre stage.

The intended formal love interest between the Duke of Messina's daughter Hero, and victoriously returning Don Pedro's aid-de-camp Leonato, will be severely tested by the intervention of Pedro's dastardly bastard half brother Don John.

He hatches a plan that sees his own right hand man Borachio have mean sex with a servant girl Margaret, while eye witnesses insinuate it was with the bride to be; cocking things up for her and a disbelieving suitor. An aborted wedding and aftermath can still be salvaged by the cool headed Priest's proposition - but honour has to be restored too, before a death oath is enacted.

Acker plays Beatrice. When she is ear-wigging a set up conversation, about Benedick's feelings for her, itis the tastiest thing in the kitchen. The men however suffer at times in carrying off the clarity of diction, which the slightly tedious 'meeting of minds scenes', demand and Denisof, shorn of his beard, flags towards the end. But enough. Word must go to Dogberry (Fillion) and his bumbling Nightwatch, who help salvage the day despite themselves.

The boozy soundtrack, including 'Sigh no more' and 'Heavily', both in the original, complements the screenplay in short pithy interludes and has cult potential. Despite the trauma these people know how to enjoy themselves.

The party dance scene has the chilled out feel of a holiday bound bottled beer advertisement.

Hey nonny, nonny.

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