Monday, 15 April 2013

REVIEW - MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING


Comedy out of context. The danger in adapting Shakespeare is that you let him do all the work - with Much Ado About Nothing, the danger is in trusting that he's actually done the work. Joss Whedon inherits all of this cumbersome play's faults alongside all of its favours, and produces a film that is its equal in effect and technique if not in artistry, and not as you might expect. In short, everything in Whedon's Much Ado is of enormously variable quality. Individual performances range from lively to lacklustre, the cinematography from creative to customary, the music from sweet to sickening. The cast copes awkwardly with some of the verbal comedy but marvellously with the physical, especially Amy Acker, but Whedon seems unsure of where to pitch the tone of the humour as the story takes its wild swerves through a series of extraordinary developments which barely got by in the original play, never mind in this modern setting. Treating it rather po-faced is a mistake, as the cast simply isn't up to the challenge, while treating it as farce is a risky move, which is only halfheartedly made here. Whedon strolls where Shakespeare plodded, and dries up where Shakespeare danced. The imbalance thus continues, although it does contribute to a rather more coherent work than its source. Yet, it is lacking in the bold frivolity necessary to make the first half soar, and self-consciously goofy performances detract from the beauty of the language. He does make a vast improvement in one regard, drawing out the abrupt ending most considerably, and considerately, extending it to a much more suitable size. The update to the 21st century and the black-and-white photography are mere affectations, and they mesh uneasily with Shakespeare's florid text. This is mildly worth seeing for its cute comedy, and then worth avoiding for its irritability.