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SXSW 2013 Movie Review: Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’
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Much Ado About Nothing at SXSW 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Reed Diamond, Clark Gregg, Tom Lenk

After directing Marvel’s The Avengers, Joss Whedon could have made any movie he wanted – and that’s exactly what he did. Instead of diving head-first into another big-budget, special effects blockbuster, Whedon decided to shoot a black-and-white adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in 12 days at Joss Whedon’s house, this film adaptation uses the original text while putting a contemporary spin on the classic story, making extensive use of actors from the Whedon universe.

Much Ado About Nothing stars Amy Acker (Angel) as Beatrice and Alexis Denisof (Dollhouse) as Benedick, sparring lovers caught in a dark, sexy, and sometimes absurd contest of love and romance. The film also stars Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods) as Count Claudio and newcomer Jillian Morgese as Hero, his would-be bride.

The two pairs of lovers are swept up in an intricate (and deceptive) game of love, pushed and pulled by outside forces like Don John (Sean Maher, Serenity), Leonato (Clark Gregg, The Avengers), and Don Pedro (Reed Diamond).

Really, I can’t go any further without gushing over how incredible Amy Acker is in this movie. Acker has appeared in television shows like Alias, Dollhouse, and Person of Interest. You last saw her in Cabin in the Woods where she played Lin, the Chem Department technician who hangs out with Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins’ characters.

Here, Acker effortlessly recites Shakespeare’s text as the cynical Beatrice. Acker exudes such charm and grace, it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. Denisof’s Benedick has incredible chemistry with Acker and it’s simply a delight to watch them together on screen.

Nathan Fillion shows up as Dogberry, the constable in charge of Messina’s night watch. In this contemporary adaptation he’s a bumbling police detective in a weird Shakespearean buddy-cop subplot with Tom Lenk‘s Verges. Fillion gives the weighty dialogue levity with some well-placed jokes and plenty of dramatic sunglasses moves straight out of C.S.I Miami.

Much Ado About Nothing is a charming, intimate film with fantastic performances and a shoestring budget. It’s incredible to think that Whedon shot this thing in 12 days – considering it’s one of the most impressive Shakespeare adaptations I’ve seen in recent history. It will be interesting to see how Whedon’s film career takes shape in the coming years – decompressing from big, intense movies like The Avengers with smaller, more personal projects.

I guess this is the part where I come clean… I’m not the world’s biggest Joss Whedon fan. I blame the guy for ruining the Alien franchise with Alien: Resurrection and I think all of his television projects are incredibly overrated – BUT, after The Avengers, I decided to give Whedon a second chance, and Much Ado About Nothing completely won me over. Whedon’s finally in a place where he can carry his ideas out to a conclusion without the interference and second-guessing of producers and executives.

Seriously though, my money is on Amy Acker as the next big thing – she’s Best Actress material. I wouldn’t be surprised if she shows up in an Avengers movie at some point – she’d make a pretty great Wasp if you ask me. Besides, Alexis Denisof is already part of the Marvel cinematic universe as The Other (Thanos’ main Chitauri servant guy) – and every Benedick needs a Beatrice, don’t they?

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