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Much Ado About Nothing - 2013
3 out of 4 stars
Script - William Shakespeare
Director - Joss Whedon
Benedick - Alexis Denisof
Beatrice - Amy Acker
Dogberry - Nathan Fillion
Leonato - Clark Gregg
Claudio - Fran Kranz
Hero - Jillian Morgese
Don Pedro - Reed Diamond
Don John - Sean Maher
Conrade - Riki Lindolme
Margaret - Ashley Johnson
In Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon, in a whirlwind filming, pulled in his friends to create a fun, quirky, black and white movie. In fact, this film adapted the fun aspects of Shakespeare's play to Whedon's unique and imaginative directing. Secondary characters really stood out in ways that should not be overlooked.
For instance, Sean Maher (Serenity) was cast as Don John. Every character Maher has portrayed previously has been a good character and it was a shock to see him playing the evil bastard prince. An interesting shift from his more innocent role as Dr. Simon in Serenity who was the caretaker and guardian of his sister. His portrayal of Don John was cold and calculating. He smirked derisively at the pathetic "good masters" and wheedled them into believing the worst of Hero.
A unique twist that Whedon put into the film was changing Conrade from male to female. This made it possible for Don John to be Conrade's (Riki Lindolme) lover without raising eyebrows. An interesting thought is that Conrade being a male would have been more appropriate as Don John's lover since Maher is gay. Conrade, normally a male character, was played as a sex object for Don John and maybe even Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark). She was almost comfortable with Borachio walking in on the foreplay between Don John and herself. She was happy to hand her pot over to Borachio while he was telling her how he had convinced Don Pedro and Claudio that he was having sex with Hero, when in reality he was swiving Margaret.
Though not a character, an important aspect of the movie was the partying. Every scene was filled with people drinking one thing or another. Tables and counters were liberally filled with wine bottles, wine glasses, liquor bottles, and shot glasses. It was hard to decide what time of day it was due to the copious drinking. The only characters that aren't seen drinking or smoking pot are the constables.
Finally, Dogberry (played by Nathan Fillion), the head local constable, obviously wants to sound important but can't seem to say the right words - ever. In fact, he often says the exact opposite of what he is trying to convey. It is funny and tragic simultaneously. In Whedon's version, the constabulary look like they are either FBI or CIA, but act like Keystone cops. Fillon, typically an off beat, fun character actor, plays Dogberry with serious conviction and the more serious he is, the more hilarious his delivery is.
There is a lot to enjoy about this movie and lots to look for. Especially Dogberry's "I am an ass!"