Rented: Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing (2012) by Joss Whedon

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I’m not sure if I told you how I came to love Shakespeare. I had tried to read Macbeth at some point and labored through three pages of it before throwing it into the corner not to pick it or him up again for years. And then I watched Much Ado About Nothing – Branagh’s version – and fell in love.

muchado2It’s still my favorite movie version, it’s still one of my favorite plays, it’ll always have a special place in my heart. And I would probably not have endeavored to watch a different version if it hadn’t been for this addition to the title: A film by Joss Whedon.

And then, of course, there was the casting of Amy Acker as Beatrice. One of my favorite actresses playing one of my favorite Shakespearean characters? Count me in.

And now I’ve watched it. In fact, I’m at this moment watching it a second time in one day. Oh, my goodness, what a ball, a blast, a festival of wit and comedy and noir elements that make this movie not better than Branagh’s, but different and wonderful.

I must confess that I couldn’t imagine anyone playing Much Ado differently, in each and every scene I had a flashback to the ’92-version. But slowly the actors of the Whedon-verse acted themselves into my conscious and I couldn’t resist their charm. I’m fascinated, I’m stumped, I can’t stop watching. And how do you even begin to resist Amy Acker?

Let me tell you something about Acker – she’s genius. In every part I’ve ever seen her, she not only amyacker2convinced me, she awed me with her talent. I loved her as Doctor Saunders/Whiskey in Dollhouse, and I’m madly in love with Root in Person of Interest. She’s just so special in every role, she’s amazing.

But she’s not the only one in this brilliantly cast Whedon-family adaptation of Shakespeare. I never liked Alexis Denisof better than when he played Benedick, he’s earnest and smart and comical when he’s told that Beatrice loves him. Such an honest performance. I loved Fran Kranz in Dollhouse and I love him as Claudio. And then there’re Nathan Fillion as Dogberry and Tom Lenk as Verges and, hell, they’re the funniest thing – yes, funnier than Michael Keaton and Ben Elton even.

muchado4I guess, I have one thing to criticize, though. While I first thought it refreshing to see Riki Lindhome cast as Conrade, I feel that casting Conrade with a male actor in this version would have been even better. Making Don John (Sean Maher) a gay villain – not a caricatured man who is evil because he’s limited to his gayness, but just a villain who happens to be gay… That would have been even more interesting than having a Shakespeare character emasculated.

Apart from this, I simply love Whedon doing Shakespeare. But then, has there ever been a thing Joss Whedon has done that I didn’t love?

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Sneak Preview: Hitchcock

Hitchcock (2012) by Sacha Gervasi

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Last Thursday I went to another scneak preview, embarrassed myself by shouting that Daniel Day-Lewis had won only two Academy Awards (I didn’t even know that he won for There Will Be Blood), and ended the 98-minute-film rather inebriated. But it was all in good fun.

The movie is about movie-maker icon Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship to his wife Alma Reville, herself an accomplished assistant-director, editor and screenwriter, and the production of Psycho.

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It is not surprising that the movie lives from its stars. Anthony Hopkin’s subtle style of acting seems to inspire his co-stars and the result is an example of underlined witicism and tongue-in-cheek references. Yes, the film shows Alfred Hitchcock’s overbearing nature, his sexual deviancy, if you will, in peeping into the actresses’ dressing rooms. But this film is not a psychological look at Hitchcock’s egotism, it’s more of a love story and a comedy.

If Hopkins inspires his co-stars, Helen Mirren inspires the audience. She is by far the best thing about a movie that is good to begin with. She makes Alma Reville into a believable conspirator of Hitchcock’s thrillers but also his harshest critic. Alma is the loveable part of the Hitchcock-marriage and the movie never ceases to remind us that she is very talent in her own fields, taking over directing when her husband is ill, revising the script, etc. Here’s a woman who knows her movies.

Toni Collette’s is another note-worthy performance. She plays Hitchcock’s hitchcock6assistant, Peggy Robertson. It may not be a big role but Collette stands out, not by overacting or pushing herself forward but by standing in the background, waiting for her cue and then being spot-on. It is really amazing to me how the Academy could overlook her as well as Helen Mirren’s performances in this movie, they were both great.

It was certainly interesting to see Hitchcock’s struggle with Psycho, from both a productive as well as a creative point of  view. The fact that he wanted to do it but didn’t really seem to be sure of how to do it, is fascinating. Seeing a director of his ability struggle with his vision is both reassuring and scary. And if it hadn’t been for his wife, Psycho might have been a big flop. Fascinating.

hitchcock5The film has a pro-feminist feel to it that I appreciate, certainly, it was the late 1950s and Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johannsson) talked a lot about her husband Tony and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) had given up a great career in favor of being happily married but the movie tells us that all these women, Alma and Peggy included, were strong women, they made no excuses for who they were, they decided for themselves. And that is not only remarkable for a movie playing in the late 1950s but also for one who has been done in 2012 – sadly remarkable.

It is a really good film, very entertaining. One thing, and I don’t even remember what it was, really, had me laughing so loud that it amused the whole audience… might have been the beer, but I think it was actually really funny. Be that as it may, light-hearted entertainment, especially for movie geeks. You should have watched Psycho, though, it helps (and don’t even think of watching the remake!).

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