4 thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon, USA, 2012)

    1. I went to see the film partly because of your recommendation (as I did the Dollhouse series, which is fascinatiing so thanks for the tip there) and partly because I’m interested in Whedon. However, it seems to me that the reason for doing a Shakespeare adaptation is the beauty of the language, or what that language in and through that very particular formulation tells us about what it is to be human. Thus Shakespeare adaptations roughly break up into two kinds: ones where we get an opportunity to see great actors sink their chops into that gorgeous verse and make us understand it anew and sometimes in new ways (Brando, Mason and Gielgud in Julius Ceasar; Pacino as Richard III, the various Oliviers) or to mix some of that language through a new form and create a fictional world that can communicated the complex forms of being human that Shakespeare did, and with his aid, but through cinema. This is what Welles did and I think also in different ways and to different extents what is attempted in My Own Private Idaho and Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet). In Whedon’s Muc Ado, the speaking of the verse is adequate, barely. The actors seem glad just to not trip up over it. And there’s been no work, or very little, on the image. It was telling that he chose to film it in black and white because it was filmed in his house and he wanted to disguise that glitzy California look rather than in terms of what black and white used in particular ways, with various ways of using shade etc could bring to the work. (It was a mistake anyway. I saw a delightful version in Stratford last year with Meera Sayal set in India). I walked out after the soliloquy with the handheld camera of the guy jogging up and down the stairs but did stay through the cringe-making hey nonny bonny (he composed the music and did the edit as well, none of which I’d brag about if I were he). I’ve subsequently read more reviews, some of which praise exorbitatntly (The Guardian) as if one should be congratulated for attempting something difficult (Shakespeare!) which is after all fundamentally what artists do even in their lightest comedies (Hawks in Bringing Up, Cukor in Holiday say). I think Whedon is an artist but this is is a home exercise; I’m sure he learned a lot whilst doing it but I bet you he also turned a lot of people off Shakespeare in the process. A longer reply than I meant to write and entirely off the top of my head. I”m sure I’d be able to offer something more nuanced with more time but hope this will do (as reasons for walking out, can’t comment on the film more than I did as I only saw 45 minutes).

  1. Thanks for replying Jose. I certainly enjoyed the film more than you did (!), and it didn’t strike me as being inept in the same way that it obviously did you. I share your feeling, though, that Much Ado isn’t the best vehicle for or expression of Whedon’s artistry. Perhaps the equivocation over ‘updating’ which you point to (and which I wrote about) are part of the problem. Whilst quite enjoying the execution, I did find myself wondering ‘so what?’ Given that the rest of Whedon’s output, his tv output in particular, is *so* focused on offering entertaining and complex meditations on issues of identity, power etc with contemporary relevance, I wasn’t sure what stance I was being asked to adopt to this text and these characters – and their sexual politics in particular – given that the film is part set in the past and part set in the present. This seemed to me to present a barrier to complex thinking-through.

    When the film comes out on DVD (on the 7th of October, not that I expect you’ll be rushing to order your copy!) I’m looking forward to returning to it so I can think more about issues such as the ones you raise to do with performance/ine delivery and cinematography.

    To be continued…

    (PS. I really want to see Killing Them Softly now!)

    1. He surely is an artist, and I really look forward to what you have to say on his work. Amongst other things, I love your enthusiasm and all the interest you find in his work. And I do appreciate that anyone interested in Whedon should see the film, but it is a scholar’s interest (just as I’m dying for the new book on Welles, even his breadcrumbs interest me). I now understand why distributors weren’t killing themselves to show it (it only arrived in Birmingham now, and only for a few days at the Electric. The people in Hull clearly knew more than I did. Many thanks for the comment on Killing Me Softly. It’s made my day and I look forward to hearing from you when you do see it. Jose

Leave a Reply