Taking over the World!
- Aug 16, 2005
I went to the European premier of Much Ado About Nothing tonight here in Dublin, Joss was in attendance, and was presented with the Irish Film Festival Volta Award for excellence in film and stayed for a Q&A after the screening.
I don't' want to oversell the film... But it was phenomenal.
I just want to note that I don't think it's the fanboy in me saying that (Although he is buzzing with energy at the moment, so maybe!) After Dollhouse I began to think I was losing interest in Whedon's storytelling, finding it a little too predictable, it had lost the sense of grandeur it had for me before.
I loved the Avengers, but it was a very different Whedon doing that, those characters were already established and already had a voice, and as brilliant as it was, part of me did keep thinking that the movie would have been the runaway box office hit no matter who was behind it because of what it was in and of itself.
I also wouldn't call myself a fan of Shakespeare, I've read Romeo and Julie, King Lear and seen both performed on stage, but both were mandatory reading for school. I struggle with the modern English language as it is, so I struggled to follow what was happening in the plays, loosing track of what the characters were saying (Still don't know how biting my thumb at you would be a bad thing, but I know not to do it!)
But Much Ado about Nothing changed that for me. The film is based on the work of the same name by William Shakespeare, it's set in modern era but the text is the same, so the characters speak in Old English, Similar to Baz Luhrmanns Romeo and Juliet.
Luhrmanns Romeo and Juliet is a massive blockbuster of a movie with huge name actors, huge fantastical sets and a massive arena to play in, whereas Whedon's is a small intimate gathering of friends. With Leurmans film everything is so big, the language can fall by the wayside, if you can't follow a sentence you won't miss out, and there is enough action to tell its own story.
Whedon's smaller affair really depends on the language, the movie strips away everything. There are no huge sets or massive action sequences, there isn't even colour. This make the language of the film all the more prominent, and yet I followed everything all the way through, so either I've gotten smarter since High School, or Joss and his actors made Old English incredibly relatable, and I think it's the latter.
The film was shot in 12 days in Whedon's own home (which was designed by his architect wife, and is stunning) right after Whedon had finished The Avengers, his wife suggested doing the movie rather than going on their 20th Anniversary. The film features a host of Actors that Whedonverse fans will be giddy with excitement to see all together on screen, Nathan Fillon got a round of applause twice mid film, as did Tom Lenk when he appeared on screen. Whedon mentioned during the Q&A after the film that while shooting Buffy's "Fool for Love" (Season 5, episode 7) and doing the flashback scenes with Spike he got the idea to do Shakespeare Sundays, were some of the cast members would come back and they'd get (I think his words were) "Massively Drunk" and they'd do readings of Shakespeare's work. They did Much Ado About Nothing with Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker in the same roles they played in the film and he got musicians to perform the music he wrote for the songs (The Soundtrack is amazing), which is where they got the idea from. So he gathered some Whedonverse Alum to create a film version. He asked Sean Maher to join the film by sending him an email asking "this is what I'm doing [Much Ado], and I want to get this movie made and I need a sexy villain, what saith of you?"
Joss and his Wife, Kai Cole, had started a Micro-Production company called Bellwether Pictures for producing small (very small) budget Indi films. During the Q&A Whendon said they started the company after seeing the kind of control they had with Doctor Horribles Sing Along blog, and when the Host asked if there was any projects from his past that he wanted to do but had been unable, the audience burst into low apprehensive laughter, but Whedon said they couldn't afford Firelfy so it couldn't happen"¦
The cast of the film is, unsurprisingly, brilliant, the film stars Amy Acker as Beatrice and Alexis Denisof as Benedick, one of the starring couples who are madly in love but both too proud to admit it first. Fran Kranz as Claudio and Jillian Morgese as Hero, (Beatrices Cousin), and the second young couple who and fall in love very quickly. Hero's father Leonato, played by Clark Gregg (Gregg was originally wanted for the part but couldn't do it, so Anthony Stewart Head was going to, then couldn't, then Gregg was able to again) Reed Diamond as Don Pedro and his Brother Don John, played by Sean Maher, the Villain, along with Borachio and Conrade, played by Spencer Treat Clark and Riki Lindhome rounding out the trio of villains. An original Buffy Trio member made up one half of the buddy cop duo, with Tom Lenk playing Verges and Nathan Fillion playing Dogberry.
Each of the Cast members is excellent in this film, but in particular I was enthralled by Amy Ackers performance, I don't know why I was so surprised given that we've seen what amazing range she has going from Fred to Illyria. But she absolutely controlled this film for me, every second she was off screen I was wondering where she was. Part of that was her characters charm and "bitchy funny" quality, but most of it was down to Ackers performance, I don't know if I can explain it correctly but the way she said her lines you would have no idea they were written in Old English, they absolutely flowed from her, and she was in complete control the whole time. She made the language incredibly relatable and translated it into modern English like it was as easy as breathing.
They all did an excellent job with making the script relatable, but Ackers for me just nailed that area for me. I also can't convey how funny Alexis Denisof is. One scene in the film called for allot physical comedy that Denisof couldn't have nailed any finer, his timing and willingness to throw himself anywhere and everywhere made it one of the funniest scenes I've seen in any film in a long, long time.
Special mention has to go to Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillion, who now must have a buddy cop show someday, they worked incredibly well off each other, they both have a fun sensibility about them that lends itself very well to the "bumbling cop duo" who play a major part in revealing the bad guy of the movie, but don't seem entirely aware how important they were.
Kranz and Morgese play young lovers with real believability, and allot of hart, the scenes of their initial attraction are very sweet and endearing, that makes the turning of the tale later in the film all that more bitter sweet. Greg and Diamond played the fatherly figures of the film, I would have loved to see Anthony Stewart Head in the film, but Gregg was a more than equal substitute, and Diamond showed a string mastery of the language similar to Ackers.
The Trio of villains were villains in the truest sense of the word; they had a mystique about that that could have only been topped if they had big moustaches they were twiddling throughout the film. One scene called for them to rise from the water of a swimming pool behind Kranzs character, and the three of them could not have seemed more shark like, with cold eyes looking on their pray.
For me the only part of the film that was a let-down was the costumes, it was the one area that the smaller budget could be seen, with some of the men's suits being too big for them. It was only a small thing and it only happened 2 or 3 times, but I think it's quite a noticeable thing when a guy is wearing a suit that's a little too big.
That for me was the ONLY thing I can remember not liking about the movie, the music is great, we already know Joss can write music, he wrote the music for the Firefly Theme tune and Once More With Feeling. He writes some really beautiful pieces for this film, which were performed by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen (who makes a small cameo!)
I won't go into details about the plot for fear of spoilers (Can you spoil a 500 year old play?) You may already know the play from having read or seen it performed before, in which case you'll already know it's pretty brilliant, and pretty much makes up the building blocks for all modern day romantic comedies. If you haven't seen/read it before or are worried you couldn't enjoy it because of the language, I cannot stress enough how this will cease to matter once you start to watch the film. You will just enjoy it as you would any other film for its beautiful moment and its powerful moments, of which there are many.
If you felt, like me, like you have lost a little bit of trust in Joss, I also couldn't recommend this film any more, Whedon's language is a staple of his work, just as Shakespeares is, and seeing him work his Whedonisms into characters he can't change the dialogue for is captivating, it makes you rethink your thoughts on him and discards the common nuances of his work that had become very common. There still there and you will recognise them, but seeing them in a whole new manner is a very rewarding experience, and one I hope you all get to see.