Tom-Lenk-and-Nathan-Fillion-in-Joss-Whedons-Much-Ado-About-NothingThere is something irresistibly charming about this sumptuous romantic comedy; a surprisingly perfect match between the creator of Buffy and the director of The Avengers and the incomparable work of William Shakespeare. It is hard to find any of the Bard’s works that haven't been adapted to death, but Whedon has made this version his own and should please even the most devoted Shakespeare purists. With the interesting stylistic decision to photograph the film in black and white, Whedon also utilised his own home over the course of a slim twelve-day shoot. Most of the cast is made up of Whedon’s friends and actors he has worked with on previous projects. Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedroare two of his officers, Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato's daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick and Leonato's niece, Beatrice (Amy Acker), find themselves at odds in a series of verbal sparring matches. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange a marriage to unite the two, while he, with the help of Leonato, Claudio and Hero, attempts to trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love. Don John, with the help of his villainous allies, starts a plot against the happy couple.

The beautiful flow of Shakespeare’s language, which is kept in its purest form here for the entirety, is a pleasure to listen to and far from the dissuading burden it could have been. There is a spark to the language here when spoken with such enthusiasm, and within a contemporary context that makes it not only accessible, but a desired diversion from everyday dialect.

Whedon’s signature wit is a worthy companion to the language with these characters pushed through a strenuous series of emotions, both made to look like fools in dealing with their confusing feelings of affection or finding mutual love unrequited by villainous betrayal.

The entire ensemble is uniformly excellent, with Acker and Denisof the clear standouts for me. Nathan Fillion’s role, though small, is absolutely hilarious. There is an evident sense of camaraderie, with the cast having a great time together, aiding the essential chemistry.

There are a couple of scenes that come off a little awkwardly, perhaps failing to utilise the potentials offered by the expansive property, signifying that this story may be better suited for the stage. This is only a minor criticism, however. I am sure there are many who will have qualms about the light hearted nature of Whedon's contemporary setting, feeling it is too at odds with the Courtly politics of Shakespeare's play.

For as funny as Much Ado About Nothing is - the physical humour that accompanies Benedick and Beatrice eavesdropping on their cohorts as they discuss their respective attraction is bellyaching - learning of the conspiring that threatens the uniting of Claudio and Hero, is equally sad.Whedon keeps the tone light enough to ensure it remains entertaining, but there is a dramatic edge that gives the film further resonance.

Much Ado About Nothing is very entertaining, fit with unwavering energy and wit. The purity of Shakespeare's language, which is an absolute pleasure to listen to, is entwined with plentiful humour and tragedy. Superb comic performances from Whedon's likable ensemble bring this tale of unlikely love and villainous conspiracy to life. Screening at local indie cinemas and highly recommended.

[rating=4] and a half

Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22

Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.