When: Thursday, 11 July - Wednesday, 7 August
Where: Various cinemas in Brisbane
How much: $15 - $20
Is this low-budget, low-key production Joss Whedon’s post-Avengers campaign for cred as a Legit Indie Filmmaker?
Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare's 1598 version of a rom-com, hauled mercilessly into 2013 with cocktails, cupcakes and a sensibility that's both verbose and slapstick. Our two lovers, Beatrice (Amy Acker) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof), are cluelessly star-crossed, blinded by their own pride and ego. Whether you find what plays out a tedious, self-financed pet project or an endearing contemporary translation will depend on your familiarity with the almost untouched original text and your appreciation/tolerance of Whedon universe in-jokes (like the Dollhouse set prop).
The project was shot in 12 days at the end of Avengers production with a cast of usual Whedon suspects. It's a somewhat grinding change of gears from the Marvel machine, but in an age of relentless threequels, 3D fantasies and franchisable remakes, it's admirable to see a big-shot director get back to basics. Whedon does everything from writing the slightly cheesy score to staging the entire production in his LA mansion. It's shot in black and white, which seems to be an easy shorthand for self-declared serious independent directors lately, but Whedon makes it work. Just. Across all his various projects, this director’s trademark is self-assuredness, and every frame of Much Ado About Nothing bounces with energy. It's as slick as you'd expect, if not a little forgettable, and definitely not daring. Then again, it's not meant to be: it's for Whedon's maniacal audience and for himself.
The Elizabethan speech rarely totally flows, the modern setting jars and not all the actors convince. But the director's fondness for the typical Shakespearean preoccupations of hidden identity, destined love and thwarted revenge can't help but seep through. A frothy labour of love.