Watched Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing
, filmed in his home, black and white, with friends. Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker play the sparring Benedik and Beatrice, Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese (second and latest film) play Claudio and Hero.
Black and White does make the film stand out, felt it worked well (partly I think expense as a private project) but it did look beautiful. Cinematographer Jay Hunter got some lovely views but once or twice, a shot felt simply done to look good, forced and it jarred, Whedon did some jazz music which worked fine. Pacing good, some reworking done which helped the end phase: Leonato's (Clark Gregg) reaction was less of a jolt and the ending didn't feel so rushed. Good pacing, that this was friends doing the project helped in that it gave relaxed performances and a sense of bonhomie. Knowing the house well, the cast were able to really interact with their setting and make it part of the play.
Was it a good production? My sister left early as she felt it was a bit stilted, I saw just enough to carry on and found it improved in the second half. There were comedy moments that made me smile, but rarely laugh, romantic moments that left a brief moments of warm, fuzzy happiness but that lasted only a few seconds. I liked it well enough but preferred the Globe Theatre
version, the comedy was sharper and the romance more power, they way they showed the pain of the lead characters was more moving for me in that though I could see why Whedon played it the way he did.
Most of the cast did well, having a strong grip on the language, bouncing off each other, hitting the right notes: Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese made a good couple though Hero remains not the best character, Clark Gregg, Ashley Johnson as the maid Margaret, Paul M. Meston as the priest, Romy Rosemont as the judge. Reed Diamond was more erratic with the language but shared Gregg's sense of charisma and fun, an enjoyable presence. The inept cops (an area where the film beat the play production) of Nathan Fillion, Tom Lenk (latest film), Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney are a nice bit of comedy fun.
The problem for the film is two key sets: the leads and the baddies.
1) Leads are (to overly simplfy) both first half bad, second half good. Alexis Denisof in the first half is good at the bonhomie, at the physical comedy but seems to be tonally wrong, trying a bit too hard and not getting a grip on the language. Amy Acker is better, she is good at the comedy and the bonhomie, she is good as an actress when she has something to react to but she doesn't get on the top of the language, she all too rarely makes the wit fly.
When the turning point of the story comes
, they really land the physical comedy and their performances improve. They have a romantic spark, they get on top of the language, they charmed me as well as each other with their glances and their efforts. Denisof is good, he has found his tone, Acker is even better
2) Team evil: John (Sean Maher) and his followers Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark)+ Conrade (Riki Lindhome). Rewriting Conrade to be a male isn't an issue, probably could have done with a name change, but otherwise it suits well and gives them another angle. The problem is all three struggle to get to grips with the Shakespearean language, it doesn't flow naturally. I did like the passion Lindhome showed, she could liven her scenes up with that but still, the villain scenes tended not to click.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”