Sunday, July 7, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing - The Whedonverse Lives On

I should probably start this blog off by making it clear that yes, I might be biased. I was a little Whedonite before anyone else I knew was. I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and balling the type of tears that only can come out of misunderstood youth. My excuse for still balling those tears in my adult life is... I'll get back to you when I think of one.

Joss Whedon - Our Master
That being said, I was a Buffy girl from a young young age. I loved Angel to unhealthy extents (Not Twilight extents. I do want to make that one clear) and when I discovered Firefly, even though it was after it was canceled, I proudly became a Browncoat and made everyone I knew watch that show. I have been singing Joss's praises for the better part of my life and with his recent success with the Avengers, Cabin in the Woods (Yes, it's a success. Go see it now) and now Much Ado, I have a little bud of pride in my nerdy Whedon soul because I was bowing down to him before the rest of the world caught on to the fact that this man is a genius that should be celebrated with squee's of passion.

Clark Gregg, Jillian Morgese and Amy Acker
By now, you're probably thinking, “Of course she loved Much Ado. She's wearing her Joss colored glasses and would think the man staring at a wall of paint would be art”. That, is simply not the case. Here's the thing. I get nervous with every new Joss project. I learned a long time ago to never hype myself up over one of his projects because of the inevitable let down. It is important to remember at this point that I have seen the cancellation of each and every one of his shows. Except for Firefly. I honestly don't know where the hell I was when that one was playing. But yes, I saw Buffy get canceled and move to UPN. I was enraged and sent mass amounts of postcards when Angel was told they needed to say goodbye. By the time Dollhouse rolled around and Fox canceled yet another one of his shows, I couldn't even find it in me to be angry. I was just accepting of it. If you are a die hard Joss fan, you simply learn to take this abusive treatment from FOX and secretly hate them but know they are too powerful to defeat. I think part of the reason I loved Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog so much is because there was no way it could be canceled.

Joss Whedon and Amy Acker
on set
So, when it was announced the Much Ado was being done, I had a moment of ZOMG I CAN'T EVEN STAND MY LIFE RIGHT NOW I AM SO HAPPY, but that was quickly pushed away as I remembered two things. Joss is attempting to modernize a text that has no deep meaning, no clever twists and turns, and no horrid deaths that make you weep for centuries. Essentially, he was doing something completely new and un Joss like. He had witty banter on his side, but it wasn't his witty banter. It was someone elses.

And two... I kind of really dislike Shakespeare.

That being said, I did read this play before seeing the movie and it made me gain an iota of respect for Shakespeare. You can read that post here . I had to gracefully accept that I was wrong with this play. It is witty and filled with smart and intelligent dialogue. Hands down, it is one of the better comedies I have read and is easily becoming one of my favorite tales. Beatrice and Benedict are amazingly rounded and gorgeously cruel to each other characters. It was one of the first times in Shakespeare history where I felt like the two main characters were something more than a trope that Shakespeare personified. This of course made me even more excited for Joss's adaptation which in turn, made me dread it more because I was terrified I would go into the movie expecting too much.

Let me just say, I went in expecting a lot... and Joss met every one of my expectations.

Wesley and Fred... I mean, Alexis Denisof
and Amy Acker
Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof do an amazing job as Beatrice and Benedict. Denisof is funny and full of that cheesy and sometimes sleezy charm that you know his character thinks makes him a hit with the ladies. His comedic timing during his ease dropping scenes is perfect and his gullibility throughout the play comes off as completely endearing. What should have made you look at this man and turn your nose up in disgust, actually made you want to root for him. There were moments where he was just so painfully naive to the point where he came off as some wannabe mans man, that you wanted to cringe. Instead, I found myself smiling like a fool and just wishing that Beatrice could see that beneath all this very shallow and often times thin exterior of a somewhat special soul, was... well the exact same thing but come on! It all came off in a way that made you secretly awww....

Amy Acker
And Amy Acker. I heart this woman. I've loved her throughout the Joss years and in this film she blew me away. I forgot that she was Amy Acker, the woman who loved tacos as Fred, who scared the shit out of us as Illyria and who shocked us as Dr. Saunders and Whiskey. She embodied Beatrice in this beautiful mess of a woman. For a moment, I almost forgot that this was a creation of Shakespeare as she portrayed the strong, female role without a hint of the misogyny that usually cackles madly in Shakespeare plays. This may very well be my favorite role of hers. The woman is gorgeous in everything she does and acts in such a way that you are blown away by the fact that she has not been in more. Hopefully, this film will give her the notoriety she deserves because as I examine this woman’s work and the things she's done, I find myself passionately in love with her and the simple way she is able to portray so many emotions in a single line.

Also, the part of me that died in the fifth season of Angel during the Fred and Wesley story arc, felt a little jolt of life again. I may be a bit weepy right now just thinking about it. ALTERNATE UNIVERES FOR THE WIN!

Fran Kranz 
Usually, in movies like this, side characters are the ones who steal the show. Your main attractions are pretty faces delivering lines. I was pleased to see that that was not the case with Acker and Denisof and I was even more pleased to see that the side characters continued to uphold the caliber of acting that was set from the opening moments of the film.

Fran Kranz plays Claudio in such a way that I was actually surprised. In the play, what I like to call Claudio's schizophrenic and bipolar personality, is rushed and leaves the reader frowning and often asking whether or not Claudio is on some sort of medication. The timing in this movie however tones that feeling down (Kudo's Joss) and Kranz's ability to give those puppy eyes makes you want to forgive the horrible words that bled from his lips only moments ago. That being said, I still dislike Claudio and the female in me rages against that scene (you'll know it when you see it) but I am a sucker for Fran Kranz's ability to make me want to hug him. I also do genuinely feel he portrayed sorrow and grief over what he had done at the end of the film and hopefully, this is a situation where the character has learned.

Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillion
And of course there is Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk. I don't think there is anything to say about them other than they play off each other in ways that make me think that they aren't acting, but just having way too much fun on camera. This is a good thing. An immensely good thing. Although, I have to admit, I was never worried about these two. Their comedic timing is often untouchable.

Also, Sean Maher is a creeper. I cannot express the amount of times that I jumped because the camera turned around and in true Psycho fashion, he was just standing there. Again, I don't want to give too much away but you'll understand when you see it.

Sean Maher
With a cast of characters that you will recognize and point at the screen with glee if you are familiar with Whedon's work, you cannot help but feel a sense of walking down memory lane with this film. A Whedonite is going to love it simply for the fact that, in true Joss fashion, he has reused his actors and pushed them into roles that expose their best skills. If you are not familiar with Joss's work, or only have just started to hear the name due to the Avengers, you will still be pleasantly surprised at this film. That's the beauty of it. It is a solid piece of work all on its own with the added Easter Egg bonus of familiar faces for people who are die hard Joss fans.

Joss Whedon has managed to not only make Shakespeare extremely accessible, but has done so all in black and white without making the film feel pretentious or “arsty”. All his years of Shakespeare readings at his house has paid off. And while we're on the subject, his house is gorgeous. I only say this because I feel like we also need to keep in mind that this film was shot in only a couple of days over a long weekend, on his own property. I desperately hope that this makes other film makers out there understand that good movies, nay, great movies, can be made if you are passionate about your work.

Amy Acker
Seriously... this woman is too pretty
And that's what it comes down to. Whether you like the movie or not, the passion that this film has is contagious. These actors wanted to be there because they truly believed and enjoyed what they were doing. It wasn't about a paycheck. It wasn't about a job. It was a project that they all had faith in and they all gave everything they could to make it work. Their joy, their beauty, and their love for each other and their own life is contagious in this film and is a gentle reminder that this is what a movie should make you feel like. When that movie ended, when the curtains finally closed, I felt more from those moments than I have from any of our bigger budget movies that are out there now.

Much Ado About Nothing was simplistic, smart, funny and nostalgically perfect.

Joss Whedon, I remain to hate and love and want to glomp you for the rest of my days.

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