Sunday, July 07, 2013

Dear Joss Whedon,

You know, there are a LOT more scripts where that one came from!  May I suggest Cymbeline?  Or perhaps Twelfth Night?

With happiness, Bardiac

So, while I was on my trip, I was in Madison, too, and saw the new Much Ado, and I was very happy!

What's not to like?  Okay, one little bit, perhaps, where it felt like Hero really wasn't quite hitting things.  But mostly, what fun!

The whole film felt a bit restrained and understated, and that really worked with the black and white.  The audience at the theater laughed in all the right places, and a few extras (body language things).

I usually hate the Dogberry stuff.  But this time, it worked.  The concept of playing off all those cop shows and security stuff, along with the understatedness of the physical comedy (there was some, but not tons), was delightful.

They cut a bit; the big one I noticed was where Antonio wants to fight with Claudio.  That cut felt right, and I bet most people didn't feel like anything was missing.

I enjoyed Conrad's casting.  They changed the pronoun gender, but not the name, and I liked thinking about Conrad in a different way.  It also made the overwhelming maleness of the Shakespeare stage a little less male (the same with the clerk).

That moment when Claudio says he'd even marry an "Ethiop":  he said it right in the face of a Black woman, and she gave him a look filled with daggers.  It took on the casual racism of the line, and made us think about it and deal with it, and that's much more interesting than cutting it or pretending it's not racist.  People in the audience where I was sort of gasped, and that's really good; they were confronted with the racism, and they reacted.

I usually find Leonato rejecting Hero supremely painful to read or watch.  But this film played it very restrained, and it was less uncomfortable for me.  It was also short, or felt short (did they cut some part?  or just do it quickly).  Leonato wasn't really violent towards her (as I recall), and that made me less uncomfortable.  I guess the question is, should I be happy being less uncomfortable, or is that discomfort really important?  I have a feeling it works better for a modern audience with the restraint.

The casting worked for me.  And the black and white filming, and cinematography made the actors' look like real people, not made up automatons or something.  I thought Beatrice was especially good, and Claudio.  He seemed appropriately immature and goofy in love, which makes his rejection come out of his inexperience.

One thing I didn't get: the opening with Beatrice and Benedict in bed.  I mean, yes, there's an implication that they've had some sort of relationship in the past, but that made it feel really odd to me that they'd fall in love (rather than just jumping into bed again).   It leaves me thinking about the problem of female chastity in the play, and how that has meaning (and does still today).  I'm finding that interesting to think more about, at any rate.

In conclusion, you should all go see it!  Let me know what you think, okay? 

(And if you don't like it, be comforted that someone else will film it again at some point, and someone else again will be producing it on stage.  That's part of the beauty of plays!)

And, seriously, which play would you like to see Joss Whedon do next?  (Because forget all the modern stuff, Shakespeare for the win!)


  1. I'd love to see him do Measure for Measure, simply because no one else has been able/willing to do it on screen, and I feel like if anyone could pull it off, it might be Joss.

  2. Anonymous8:03 PM

    I wish I could see someone do Twelfth Night right. The movie version is far too subdued and doesn't bring out any of the bawd. I saw it in Chicago in the mid-90s and it just opened up the play making every word understandable-- nobody could stop laughing, not even (especially not) high school students. There was this one buttery barns joke...

  3. Ooo, I do want to see this! As for his next effort, I think Whedon should take on Romeo and Juliet as a comedy (is that cruel?).

  4. Sapience - There is a Measure for Measure on Netflix, but it's truncated. Still worth a watch, though.

    I saw MAAN at SAA this year. I liked it all right, but this just isn't my fav play. So maybe I'm not the best judge. I really like the Dogberry stuff, and the Conrad thing was perfect. I just didn't find much chemistry happening between Ben/Bea, and that was annoying. Of course, I also find the Hero/Claudio part insufferable (just in general).

    I do think that Whedon did a decent job and that he'd be a good person to adapt more Shakespeare. I think casting is not his strongest suit, though. (For the leads anyway...)

  5. I adore that play, but (like Fie) didn't adore the film. It was okay. Very pretty. And the light comedic stuff was done nicely--I think the party scene and its aftermath were superb, and the best part of the production. But I agree that there was NO chemistry between B & B (and Benedick was weak generally).

    I also thought the film was a bit incoherent in the way it handled the problems of traditional gender roles--which to me is the core of the play and where its real interest lies. We still do live in a culture where traditional masculinity and honor culture operate, at least at times and in certain contexts, but there was no sense in this film of that culture, or why it would matter, particularly that Hero was publicly shamed. Had Leonato been, say, a Hollywood bigshot, and the wedding a big media circus, there might have been more force and believability to the violence and publicity of Claudio and Leonato's rejections. And had the men been actual soldiers, touchy about their image and their honor, that also might have worked. But screwball comedy isn't exactly the right mode for the Hero & Claudio plot, which is, after all, structurally the main plot.