johnlink ranks MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1993)

I started student teaching over the past month which has continued a trend of low numbers of movies watched. However, I am supposed to start teaching MUCH ADO to my Junior theater class next week. This is one of the few Shakespearean comedies I haven’t performed in (which figures). I decided it was my homework to review the Branagh version over the weekend. I do want to see the new Joss Whedon iteration as well, but its best to hit these things chronologically. Right?


I watched MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1993) on 9.15.13. It was my second viewing of the film and first since high school, when I understood much less what was happening.

A group of military men, fresh off a war, end up at the Italian home of Leonato (Richard Briers) who has a few women for these men to fall in love with. Plots both benevolent and malicious are hatched, and various groupings of these folks get into a battle of words and wits.

This movie has a surprisingly strong cast. It’s been 20 years since this film’s release, and most everyone continued working for the next two decades. The lovers Claudio and Hero are played by young Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale. Older quarrelers Benedick and Beatrice are played by then couple Kenneth Branagh (who also directs, of course) and Emma Thompson. Military brothers Don Pedro and Don John (the villain) are tackled by Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves. The clown sheriff Dogberry is a wonderfully manic Michael Keaton. Some other familiar faces show up as well like Imelda Staunton (who would go on to play HARRY POTTER’S Dolores Umbridge) playing Hero’s maiden Margaret.

The acting is mostly excellent, some unintentionally funny stuff from Reeves  notwithstanding. Both Branagh and Thompson are all time great Shakesperian actors. When they speak everything sounds natural, conversational, important, funny. Washington is better than I would have thought considering he usually plays a version of himself in modern movies, exclusively. He does a great job commanding respect as the leader of the pack, even if the character isn’t Shakespeare’s best written vessel.

This isn’t Shakespeare’s best script. The title tells you what will happen. Much will be made of deception, lies, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities. The major plot points are things that don’t actually happen, but which are thought to be true. The dealing with the villainous Don John at the end is regulated to a single line and is the most understated afterthought in film villain history (I’d have to check the original text versus the film script, but I’m sure some dialogue was cut here). Despite all that, the language is a rich and beautiful as you would hope and expect. This isn’t a truly weak (and possibly not even Shakespearean) script like All’s Well That Ends Well, but it is not one of the truly great efforts like Twelfth Night.

Branagh, a few years before he would truly dazzle with his filmmaking in HAMLET, does a surprisingly nice job directing the camera as well as the actors. There are some nice single-shot pieces in here, including the beginning and end, which are really difficult and multi-faceted shots containing dozens and dozens of people doing specific things while the cameraman walks around seemingly at random and ending up in a big old crane shot. It’s specific and difficult work which adds a little bit of legitimacy to what is not necessarily an exciting film to put in front of a camera.

This is an easily accessible and enjoyable Shakespearean comedy. Certainly worth a watch for anyone who likes the genre, and certainly worth a watch for anyone who thinks Denzel only does brooding modern fare. This is a really fun time, and its hour and fifty minutes flies right by.







~ by johnlink00 on September 16, 2013.

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