Director: Joss Whedon
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 109 min.
Finally got to watch this adaptation of one of my favorite Shakespeare plays by one of my favorite directors! There were things I loved and things I found uninspiring, but overall, I liked it.
Since their one-night-stand, Benedict and Beatrice can’t seem to see one another without slipping into a biting, witty banter, until someone’s feelings get hurt. Unfortunately, when Benedict and his friend Claudio return from the war, they will be staying in the same house as Beatrice and her uncle. What’s more, Claudio falls in love with Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, and suddenly everyone is planning a wedding. But Claudio, Hero, and their friends devise a plan to trick Benedict and Beatrice into falling in love with one another. Meanwhile, the Prince’s rebellious brother, Don John, decides to get revenge on his brother by spoiling the marriage of his right-hand-man, Claudio.
What I liked about this adaptation:
I am willing to own that this might be a Firefly bias (though I do think I’m being reasonably objective) . . . but two of my favorite things about this adaptation were Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry and the dynamic between his deputies and Sean Maher’s Don John and the dynamic between his minions. I often find Dogberrys to be overdone and Don Johns to be boring–hence my delight at Nathan Fillion’s understated, deadpanned comedy and Sean Maher’s petulant, hedonistic villainy. Favorite moment of the movie: Don John swiping a cupcake off the display after defaming Hero at the wedding. Because a) it was hilarious, and b) it helped show his immaturity, opportunism, and self-indulgence. Making Conrade female also provided significant opportunity for this character development. Even Boracchio got more character development than I often see, by making his motivation for plotting against Claudio revenge for love of Hero. As for the fools, Fillion’s Dogberry emphasized the humor of his malapropism (severe language confusion) by leaving most of the physical comedy to Verges. I have frequently seen that done the other way round, making Dogberry entirely ridiculous. But this interpretation allowed us to truly pity Dogberry as he works through his hurt and confusion at being called “ass” (when he may or may not know what the word means or even if it is an insult…).
My other favorite thing about this adaptation was the scene in Act V between Benedict and Beatrice where they publicly declare their non-love for each other. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof did this perfectly. It was obvious how unsure they both were–unwilling to publicly declare their love if they weren’t sure the other was going to do the same, each trying to determine if the other was really sincerely in love without betraying his/her own feelings and while keeping up the proud facade their friends had come to expect. Very well done.
What I did not like:
Despite the awesomeness of the final scene, I was overall uninspired by Alexis Denisof’s Benedict. His delivery was too understated for me. He did not use much inflection, and I felt a lot of the humor in his lines was lost. There were definitely moments I enjoyed (his dramatic “stretching” display for Beatrice was pretty great). But a lot of his soliloquies and even his banter with other characters fell flat.
Definitely an enjoyable adaptation, though, and one I will certainly watch again!