Most directors, when forced to take a vacation by your big budget studio paymasters, would book a trip, go travelling, or lie on a beach somewhere… But this is Joss. So when he was contractually obliged to take a vacation before the editing of Avengers, Joss, and wife Kai decided to use 12 of the 14 days to film a version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Since the days of Buffy, Joss & Kai have a tradition of inviting friends round for a sing-a-long, or to read though plays. This is really an extension of that. The couple’s house, which serves as the set for the movie, was designed by Kai and contains an amphitheater, and dance floor. It was built as a space which should be used for creativity, so where better to shoot the movie. It’s shot in a beautiful black and white (thanks to cinematographer Jay Hunter), with modern dress, and a micro budget. If you know the 90’s Branagh version of ‘Much Ado’, this really couldn’t be further from it.
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic tale of how some people can fall in love, whilst other must have love thrust upon them… For the fans of Joss’s other work, you’ll recognise a number of faces throughout the cast. Leonato (Avengers & SHIELD’s Clark Gregg) is preparing to welcome his friends home from the wars. Don Pedro (Reed Diamond – Dollhouse, Franklin & Bash, Bones), along with the quick witted Benedick (Alexis Denisof – Buffy, Angel, HIMYM… and Mr. Aliyson Hannigan), the young Claudio (Fran Kranz – Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods), and Don John (Sean Maher – Firefly), Pedro’s traitorous brother. Upon arriving at Leonato’s villa, Claudio immediately falls for Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese), Leonato’s only daughter. The welcome between Benedick and Hero’s cousin Beatrice (Amy Acker Angel, Dollhouse, Person of Interest) is rather less positive, with the pair jousting barbed comments at each other from the moment he walks through the door (partly due to the fact he’d slept with her, and then snuck out last time he was there…) Both have now sworn off marriage.
As Claudio prepares to as Leonato for Hero’s hand in marriage, the evil Don John sees some opportunity for mischief in disrupting the impending nuptials. At the same time, Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio embark on the task of uniting the estranged Benedick & Beatrice…
Both Alexis & Amy have proved they can switch between drama and comedy easily and completely shine as the warring couple. Equally, Fran & Jillian work brilliantly as the 2 young lovers, and Sean is a perfect choice for the mischief making Don John. Hats really have to be doffed though to Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Buffy, Dr. Horrible, Castle) as Dogberry, the security chief, and his sidekick Verges, played by Buffy’s Tom Lenk for their hilarious performances.
If you’re not a Whedon fan, I think you’ll find this an enjoyable, classy and entertaining take on the Bard’s work. If you are a Whedonite, it’s like watching watching Joss at his best. Hanging out with a bunch of old friends who are putting on a great performance, making a superb little movie, and having a blast doing it!
9/10 – A brilliant version of the Bard’s work!