During the first of many conversational confrontations between Amy Acker‘s Beatrice and Alexis Denisof‘s Benedick, the latter concludes the pair’s matter of wits with the line “I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a continuer. But keep your way, i’ God’s name; I have done.” In other words, Benedick quickly tires from the film’s first verbal sparring match and begs Beatrice’s release of him. The two part ways, but as the film progresses they constantly meet one another on the simultaneously comedic and dramatic battlefield that is–according to The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane–Shakespeare’s “most love-obsessed and least sentimental of plays.”In the larger context of love and war the power of words reigns supreme.Benedick’s line to Beatrice and the subsequent encounters between the duo provide a concise summation of both the play and Joss Whedon‘s adaptation of it, for in the larger context of love and war the power of words reigns supreme. Anyone familiar with Whedon’s creative canon already knows the director and writer’s affiliation with successful ensembles on the page and the screen. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and The Avengers all showcase his talent for gathering together large groups of people, pitting them against various obstacles–including each other, and spinning out the consequences. And, true to form, much of this occurs in conversation. I came away from it enamored with the dialogue and the ensemble.Most reviews have either highlighted specific talents in the cast (notably Nathan Fillion‘s Dogberry) or detailed Whedon’s micro-production approach to film making (with Much Ado‘s 12-day shoot at his family’s California home during a break from The Avengers). However, I came away from it just as enamored with the dialogue and the ensemble as any Shakespearean or Whedonite would. The former’s treasure trove of plays–especially the comedies–provides today’s performers with a wealth of fascinating (albeit difficult) wordplay. The latter’s recognized ability with large groups and quick wit stands on its own–whether in cult television shows or big-budget cinema. Putting the two together seems like a no-brainer. After watching Much Ado, I found myself asking why such a pairing hadn’t already occurred.
Then again, I imagine that the creative courtship between Shakespeare and Whedon would look an awful lot like the one that plays out between Beatrice and Benedick. First the violent war of wits and insults, then the steadily-paced growth of affection–whether or not it’s spontaneous or contrived (as in the play and the film) doesn’t really matter. Even so, I’m extremely glad that it happened.
Much Ado About Nothing is currently playing nationwide.
Run time: 107 minutes