by Jaime Grijalba.
Much Ado About Nothing (2012, Joss Whedon) Seen at Village Caballito, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
How do you follow up an act like the one performed in the Marvel produced film ‘The Avengers’ (2012) directed by the comic-book savy and fan-favorite director Joss Whedon? Well, most would say that a sequel would be nice, and that’s exactly what he’s making, ‘The Avengers 2′ (2015), but at this particular time the peculiarities of the making of the actual film by Whedon were put in doubt once Robert Downey Jr. questioned his involvement in another movie starring himself as the superhero Iron Man, Whedon has been quoted saying that with no Downey Jr., he would not make the sequel to one of the biggest box office hits of all time. Here’s when we understand the spirit and love that Whedon has for film (and television) in terms of how he will always put his own vision before any other thing, he would risk a huge paycheck and even a fee for not directing the film if he doesn’t have what he wants, and what he wants is Jr. in the role that made him one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood. It is now that you understand things like ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog’ (2008), also directed by Whedon, a niche and small musical project that was unleashed for free onto the internet, being this a project that was made under the writer’s strike, something he made out of pure love (and his always impressive troupe that he is sorrounded by). In a similar fashion here we have the movie that opens this week in select theaters in USA: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (2012) a project that no one asked for and that doesn’t come from the prospect of making money but because of a passion and a love to certain specific things: Shakespeare, performance, language and his actors that will follow him under any crazy project that he has in the future.
Based on one of the Bard’s comedies, the film has an unusual and most welcomed respect to the written word of Shakespeare, not only in terms of the plot of the film, but even to the dialogues, and not only that, also following the same language used. Now, that would be a no-brainer for most people who are trying to adapt plays to the screen, but the matter is that this film takes place in what we could call a modern setting, where there are cellphones, Ipods and computers, as well as guns and security cameras, all elements that come in handy to give the play a deeper layer on how the love situations of yesteryear can still happen in the world of today, and how much technology has almost none (if any) bearing on the lives of people when we’re talking about romantic relationships in terms of physical approach and promises to one another (one may find some descripancy, specially in the age of facebook, but believe me, those with relationship problems due to facebook… maybe don’t deserve to be in a relationship to begin with). So, here we have an strange world, where the modern elements of clothing and gadgets, as well as a modern sense of architecture fill the visual elements of the film, while our ears are in a feast of old english words and manners, specially in the way they speak to each other using ‘signor’ or other formalities long gone. Now, regarding the humour, it’s still as sparkly as it was in the play, it’s maybe one of the funniest films that anyone will see this year, and how testifying of the power of the Bard is that no joke or phrase was changed, they were only heightened by marvelous performances.
The adaptation of this play had been a dream project for Whedon for a while, but he didn’t have any time or prospect on when or how to do it, but here we have the genius and at the same time the boldness of Whedon when he comes out of a 12 day break off editing what would be one of my favorite movies of 2012, ‘The Avengers’ (2012), to call a bunch of his most talented and loyal actors of his troupe to film the play at his house, using all the days to film and have a good time with them, enjoying the fancy meals, the toasts, and the joy of acting the words of one of the most important writers in the history of mankind. How crazy a person must be to get off of making one of the most complicated (at least, that’s how it looks like) and over-budgeted films of all time, only to fall into making another film? Well, I must say that here’s where he finally acknowledge his passion for this particular project and to the profession itself, how much love can a man have for the written word of Shakespeare and for his actors to give them the oportunity of making this playalive… now is the film any good? Let me just say that it’s as best a performance of this play as anyone has ever seen, the actors are all suited for the characters they play, and it’s maybe the best example of a reel film, where you can see new talent boiling from every bit and piece of the film, they shall all be stars soon enough.
In an interesting black and white (I guess we have to ask ourselves, when is color necessary in a movie and how many films that come out every week would benefit from being in black and white, specially if they do nothing special with the colors either… let’s say, for example, a generic romantic comedy, which this is not, but I hope I get my point across) that marks the clothing of all the characters in contrast to their possitions, specially in the mask ball, there are sequences simply gorgeous in how beautifully framed and thought they are, like the scene at the pool (seen in most of the trailers and posters for a reason) where a character emerges with a glass of wine and a scuba on his mouth, while he is spoken from behind by two other figures in mask who try to deceive him into thinking something that isn’t. This is a marvelous comedy of errors, where the two storylines mix up in a perfect and thematic way that makes it even more interesting now for a modern audience, in terms of how much you cna force down love into someone else’s thoughts, and about deceive and how much are you willing to believe of what they say about those who love you. It’s always entertaining and maybe at times a bit too slapstick-y, but at the end I found it all to be really really enjoyable.
It is certainly among the best and most interesting films of the year, if its not because of its visual language and acting, but because of the experiment that it is and how impressive a ‘classical’ adaptation of an old play can still click with the audiences to guarantee a decent release, we can only hope that it gets to a wider audience worldwide and that the name of Whedon as a good filmmaker get to the ear of those who still are in doubt. At the end of the film we can’t help but break into applause, just the same as when we see a wonderful cast playing a wonderful version of a wonderful play, this is a play on film, but man, does it feel professional and Shakespeare at his best! (****1/2)