Note: I almost considered skipping a review for this film, because of the reasons stated below. This was the hardest review for me to formulate without sounding stupid, so my apologies if it’s a poor one.
Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing is light-hearted, whimsical, and made with care and intimacy, yet it’s not a film I particularly enjoyed. The simple reason is that Shakespeare adaptations are near impossible to understand without a substantial amount of outside knowledge on the material; he’s such an elaborate, complex writer that his works do not translate well to modern times. Here, characters speak in the vernacular we are so accustomed to for Shakespeare, yet it’s difficult to understand what exactly they are saying, where the plot leads, who is involved with what…it all becomes clearer as the film reaches its conclusion, but it leads to an element of confusion and distress as an audience member.
I’m addressing my bias here. I rarely, if ever, want to acknowledge that a film review is my opinion because it always is. This is just the epitome of my opinion going against the vast majority of what other people will say. Yes, this film is technically competent, and Whedon shoots it beautifully in black-and-white. It’s undeniably charming and the cast is having a ball; this might be one of my favorite casts of the year, simply due to my love for Whedon’s work and his showcase here of his consistent supporting players.
Yet no matter how much praise I can heap on the film, there’s this: I didn’t enjoy the experience. I don’t like Shakespeare’s language when it translates to film, and putting it in a modern setting just doesn’t fully work because the material feels out-of-date for what’s on hand. I like so much of what this film wants to be, but the language is the focal point of every Shakespeare film, and if you don’t understand it, the movie’s confusing and nonsensical. I’m familiar with almost all of his works, but this one just doesn’t gel with me. I can’t recommend the film for that reason, but I would not dissuade anyone from seeing it if you feel you’ll enjoy; you absolutely will. It’s just not my type of film.
Grade: ★★½ (out of 5)