I am such a fan of Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 screen adaptation of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. It made me want to go to Tuscany, get a tan, and just sit and watch Emma Thompson seduce an entire world with her considerable charms. Branagh took this Shakespeare comedy and demonstrated his great ability to splash sexiness and vibrancy across a screen. Branagh clearly had a burning desire to elevate the material to bring sheer joy to an audience.
Joss Whedon’s motivations for this new version are somewhat murkier. Shot in 12 days, mostly at his lovely house, this modern day adaptation has some lovely performances, clever new interpretations, and seductive cinematography, but it felt like an aesthetic experiment coupled with having a barn and shooting a movie with one’s friends. It’s the lark of someone who came off a huge blockbuster (THE AVENGERS) and wanted to make a simple, heartfelt movie as a palette cleanser of sorts. It shows. There’s no burning desire for this movie to exist, no deep yearning or passion here. It’s pleasant, and the actors are clearly invested and having a great time.
Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion in particular bring a loose sense of fun to their performances, and Amy Acker as Beatrice is simply lovely. She has warmth combined with a bit of slapstick chops, and she’s definitely one to watch. There’s also eye candy for days with this utterly sexy, gorgeous cast. No matter your sexual orientation, there’s sexiness oozing from any part of the frame, thanks to Reed Diamond, Sean Maher, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson, Joshua Zar, and on and on. The very talented Tom Lenk plays Fillion’s right hand man, and brings a humorous bewilderment to the party.
Technically, this very low budget film benefits from cinematographer Jay Hunter’s black and white use of the EPIC Red camera. Having cut his teeth on reality television, his camera work is alive and yet there are many occasions where he brings beautiful compositions to the screen. Rest of the tech credits are modest, coming off like a low budget indie wherein the crew used what was at hand to accomplish their goals.
I don’t want to sound harsh about this film, because the language is lovely and there’s a breezy spirit to the whole thing. It simply pales in comparison to Branagh’s memorable achievement. When I go to a film, I want to see the filmmaker’s desperate need to tell a story and not see them go through the motions in order to clear their head. In a nutshell, Branagh celebrated ravenous love, while Whedon celebrates simple sweetness. I guess it all depends on your hunger needs.
Glenn Gaylord is an award-winning Writer/Director/Producer and graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television.