“Much Ado About Nothing”, or “Fuck You Shakespeare” by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on July 5, 2013


In the last couple of weeks I have come to the uncomfortable realisation that my main purpose in life might actually be to help people figure out with whom they are really in love (don’t worry, I’m fine. It’s funny more than anything else). Therefore, It is with some trepidation (and a glass of much-needed vino) that I entered the cinema to see Much Ado About Nothing. With Joss Whedon in the director’s chair, I knew I was going to have ALL THE FEELINGS, not to mention that Much Ado is probably my favourite Shakespeare play. So you could safely assume that my expectations were high, and I was a little nervous.

Joss Whedon's take on his favourite Shakespeare.

Joss Whedon’s take on his favourite Shakespeare.

Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo interviewed Whedon a couple of weeks ago on their podcast (to which you must all listen, immediately), and he described the process of making this film as one of incredible intimacy. The shoot took place over only a few weeks inside the very home in which he and his wife live, and indeed his wife designed. The actors were all apparently friends that he has worked with before so he felt comfortable letting them run riot around his home.

If you don’t know the story, it is set in Messina in Italy at the height of summer. The Prince Don Pedro (Reed Diamond), his brother Don John (Sean Maher) and Count Claudio (Fran Kranz) arrive at the governor Leonarto’s (Clark Gregg) house after a battle. Leonarto’s daughter Hero (newcomer Jiliam Morgese) and Claudio take an immediate liking to each other (serious love at first sight). So Don Pedro promises to woo her on Claudio’s behalf because he can’t seem to work up the courage to do it himself (it sounds bad but it’s actually really rather sweet). Meanwhile old friends/foes Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) continue their merry war of words after months of separation and the very unsubtle hint that they drunkenly shagged. Once Claudio and Hero are betrothed, the rest of the cast begin to scheme to help their friends realise their true feelings for each other. This simple deception is mirrored by Don John, who wishes to ruin everything for no other reason than he’s a total bastard. Literally.

Modern Shakespeare

This entire film is an absolute delight. The cast are fantastic, especially Nathan Fillion as the endlessly entertaining/master of the malapropism, Dogsberry. If I had to level a criticism of the film it would be that Benedick is a little bit too simpering in the second half; maybe because I’m a withered old crone, but I found him a touch irritating. The use of black and white is a touch of genius, allowing you to be absorbed totally into the film and not concern yourself for a moment with the unfamiliar dialogue (lolz, who am I kidding? I know the first scene between Beatrice and Benedick off by heart).  And speaking of which, every single line is delivered perfectly, the inflection, tone and pitch are all flawless.

It’s tricky to know with a film like Much Ado how much to say because it would be unfair to assume that everyone knew the story. If you do know it or have seen the outstanding 1993 version (phwoar Kenneth Branagh amirite?) then you are familiar with the beautiful and uplifting ending. Indeed it moved me during the end credits to lean over and say to my companion “Fuck you, Shakespeare.”

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg’s resident film reviewer. Her column, Here. Hare. Here. is released every Friday.