Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Director puts The Bard in his own backyard

  • Print
'Let me get out these wet things and into a dry martini': Fran Kranz plays Claudio in Joss Whedon's light-hearted Much Ado About Nothing.

BELLWETHER PICTURES Enlarge Image

'Let me get out these wet things and into a dry martini': Fran Kranz plays Claudio in Joss Whedon's light-hearted Much Ado About Nothing.

Picture a lush estate in one of the posh neighbourhoods of Los Angeles, populated by elegant, urbane people.

It's probably the last place in the world you would consider a lack of virginity to be a deal-breaker in an impending marriage contract.

But director Joss Whedon, who last orchestrated the crazed, outsize action of The Avengers, assembles a cast of willing actors to sell that particular anachronism in a low-budget telling of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing shot in his own house... in black and white, yet.

These days, the comedy is considered pretty much a template of the romantic comedy, as long as the focus is on the two main would-be lovers. Beatrice (Amy Acker) has long engaged in a "merry war" with Benedick (Alexis Denisof). In modern terms, the two are incessantly dissing each other, albeit in sublime Shakespearean language. (Whedon dares to suggest their enmity is a result of a one-night stand that went nowhere in the film's silent prologue.)

Their mischief with each other takes a back seat at the estate of Leonato (The Avengers' Clark Gregg) when his virginal daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese), Beatrice's cousin, is betrothed to the smitten Claudio (Fran Kranz from the Whedon-produced Cabin in the Woods).

Their blossoming relationship is observed by the malevolent Don John, who sets his stooges to the task of subverting the nuptials by convincing Claudio that Hero is not the picture of virginal virtue she appears.

That sets the stage for the play's upsetting wedding scene, where Claudio accuses the innocent Hero of, well, being a slut, and Leonato adds to the trauma by believing his accusation.

This is where Shakespeare parts company with the modern rom-com. It's a scene of alarming domestic horror. When director Kenneth Branagh submitted his film version of the play 20 years ago, the scene's full-bore dramatic power tended to fatally unbalance the comedy.

Whedon's film, with its subtler performances and its contemporary trappings (Whedon himself wrote the music for a pleasingly jazzed-up version of the Hey Nonny Nonny song Sigh No More, Ladies) is more evenly modulated. The cast affect a more conversational approach to the language, and even engage in a little understated physical comedy.

Shooting in his own backyard over a couple of weeks, Whedon is intent on a relaxed good time and he achieves that with a cast of actors more intent on serving the ensemble than proving their Shakespearean worth. (See Branagh's version.)

If it was a truly contemporary comedy, the vilified Hero, upon winning her reputation back, would reject the contrite Claudio and also tell her dad where to get off.

So maybe it doesn't pass as all that contemporary. On the other hand, Shakespeare's admonition to women in Sigh No More, Ladies, "Be you all blithe and bonny" roughly translates as "Look pretty and act stupid."

I understand that in modern-day California, that mating strategy is alive and well.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2013 D5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Can Steeves or Bowman catch Wasylycia-Leis?

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Young goslings are growing up quickly near Cresent Lake in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba- See Bryksa 30 Day goose project- Day 11- May 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Have you decided which mayoral candidate will get your vote?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google