Seeking to escape to Southern California, if only for an evening, we rented Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. (I didn’t know it was in black and white, but little matter.) Whedon is best known for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers, and Roseanne, and I half-expected the film would be a sort of “I’ve got a nice house in Santa Monica and some swell young acting friends…but no script!” sort of deal.
In fact, the comedy is well-acted and the cinematography is lush. The dumb parts of Shakespeare’s play—the mistaken-identity element especially—are streamlined, while all the romantic banter between Beatrice, Benedict, and the others characters is given a low-key spin that conveys more emotion and less of the playwright’s over-cleverness than is usually the case. There’s something odd, but also nice, about an Americanized Shakespeare. The “flat” accents give individual words a new thrust. We notice the archaisms and think about what they mean and how they fit.
I didn’t recognize any of the actors except Clark Gregg (from The Avengers—even him I didn’t know by name) but they seem to be guided uniformly by a desire to speak their lines without undue emphasis, as if they were actually conversing. Amy Acker is especially good as Beatrice, sharp-tongued but also a little weary and lost.
The film rolls along at a steady clip, with well-choreographed movement inside, outside, in the kitchen, down in the surveillance room, and so on. The mellow pop soundtrack goes well with the suits and ties. A lot of wine gets drunk, cart-loads of courtesy and wit are exchanged, and the economical production ends up being genuinely romantic and also sweet.