Joss Whedon and William Shakespeare are, like, two of my favorite dudes in the history of ever, so I liked Whedon’s low-budget, intimate adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing,” but most people can be excused for feeling like they’re watching a student film. I mean, it’s an A+ student film for sure, but a student film nonetheless. Beatrice is arguably Shakespeare’s best female character- so Amy Acker fails her by being a little too frail, too wounded. She’s wounded by Benedick’s hinted-at dip-and-rip, (the play’s Beatrice is just annoyed). She’s wounded by Claudio’s slut-shaming of Hero (the play’s Beatrice is righteously pissed.) She even seems wounded and defensive in her “skirmish of wits” (the play’s Beatrice took no prisoners.) Acker is still a highlight- she clearly knows what her lines mean, which may not be true for everyone else in this non-Shakespearean cast culled from the Whedonverse, (although I found Nathan Fillion hilarious with his surprisingly subtle Dogberry). A good chance for subversion was lost here: Whedon may have made some nods to a current atmosphere of financial distrust with the character of Don John the Bastard, but what he needed to modernize was the absurd gender politics in the Hero-Claudio plot-line. Even Shakespeare found THAT brouhaha about Hero’s virginity ridiculous, (it’s nothing to make ado about!) so why would Whedon, who’s very attuned to the battle-of-the-sexes, not even blink when Hero and Claudio get reunited? Claudio didn’t deserve the girl. What a dick.
Sorry, was that a spoiler? It’s been 400 years!
The Kenneth Branagh version remains the gold standard despite its quirks *cough*keanureeves*cough*