I love Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”. It’s probably my fave comedy. I had been looking forward to seeing Joss Whedon’s take on the text, and was very excited to get tickets when it was being screened as part of the New Zealand Film Festival.
Quick disclaimer: the screening was interrupted by power surges which did mean the visuals kept cutting out.
Here’s what I did genuinely like about Whedon’s version: the soundtrack. Great ensemble/party scenes. (Note to self: that’s the kind of birthday party I’d like to have.) The black and white was sophisticated and beautiful. The physical comedy was funny, and not overdone in the slightest. The editing of Shakespeare’s script was highly skillful (although I was fascinated that the ‘Ethiope’ line was in, and the ‘Jew’ line was out. Says something about our modern sensibilities and what jokes we can tolerate, I think.)
One of my problems with this kind of ‘translation’ of Shakespeare is the jarring juxtaposition you can get between Shakespearean lines and a modern setting. For me, this was something that Whedon just didn’t manage to overcome. I couldn’t understand why Hero’s chastity was such an issue when the film was at pains to establish that Benedick and Beatrice had slept together. I didn’t understand why Don Pedro and his men were even staying at the house in the first place. The context was all off.
Ultimately, this was sufficiently disconnecting that, while I found the film visually (and aurally) very attractive, it just didn’t work for me. I’m afraid my love still remains with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.