Not so much a review, maybe, but a rambling discussion of
Have you seen the newest movie version of my favorite Shakespeare comedy?
John and I went and saw it for our anniversary.
I purposely did not read any reviews or find out much about it before going. I just knew that it was a pet project of Joss Whedon, shot in 12 days at his home with a handful of actors who had done other work for him. I have watched bits of Whedon's show Firefly and heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but I am definitely not among the fanatics who follow Whedon's every move.
Therefore, I was surprised that I knew any of the actors, but I recognized a few, and was pleasantly surprised by them in Shakespeare roles, using language so different from what they've worked with before.
That guy who plays the Prince (below) is Reed Diamond and I remember him from way back when he was on the show Homicide. Funny to see him here, but he really does a great job.
(not Prince, nor the artist formerly known as Prince, but the Prince)
Benedick and Beatrice are the heart of the show, obviously, although I wonder if that was what Shakespeare intended...
I'll leave that question for Shakespeare scholars.
Suffice to say that, for me and probably most modern audiences, B and B are the heart of the show. The two actors Whedon cast in those roles were unknown to me before this, so I really had no idea what to expect.
Beatrice is effortless and thoroughly charming (when she wants to be). Benedick is...meh. He has a few good moments, mostly when his lines are broadly comedic, but the in-between stuff that takes some nuance and interpretation? Didn't really work.
Still, I cheered with the other romantics in the little theater when B and B finally admit their reluctant love. That is one of my favorite scenes in Shakespeare, I think.
I love it when Beatrice is ranting about wanting to be a man so she can kill Claudio and she says, "I would eat his heart in the market place!" No meek and mild Hero, she!
But that's not the part that makes me sigh.
I love lines like:
"I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest."
This guy I recognized as the doctor from Firefly. He is a much better Don John than Keanu Reeves! *shudder*
Deliciously wicked and he knows how to deliver a line.
Nathan Fillion (right) plays an understated Dogberry, still funny, but not the comedic buffoon he usually is.
The whole thing was shot in black and white which helped to make the language shine. By eliminating one element of the spectacle, Whedon helped a modern audience to focus on the language without even realizing it. A master movie-maker working with the master word-smith.
That's just my opinion, though. I have no idea if that was what Whedon intended or not. Maybe it's cheaper to shoot in B&W and he decided to cut a corner and save a buck. I don't know.
Some folks are wondering if this is a desecration of the Bard; if Shakespeare is rolling over in his grave. A bunch of B-list and TV actors running around someone's backyard in modern dress with widely varying degrees of ability, interpreting his words as they see fit, having a whole lot of fun.
Sounds a little bit like a bunch of social-outcast actors running around an inn yard in whatever costumes they could beg, borrow or steal, with widely varying degrees of ability, interpreting lines as they could, having a whole lot of fun.
I think Shakespeare would approve.
As do I.
( One word of caution. This is not a family-friendly version! If you thought Branagh took liberties with Boraccio "talking" with Margaret at the window, you will likely swoon with the liberties Whedon took. So, leave the kids at home.)