Much Ado About Nothing (2013)
Rating: Shakespeare knew that love is indeed a many splendored thing despite its journey down some confusing, winding roads.
To begin with, I must confess that I am far from qualifying as a Shakespeare expert. Though I have always gravitated toward movies based upon some of his prolific works, it’s a bit of an effort to understand his use of the English language. I’ve always felt that it would be a blessing if films associated with his writings would appear in subtitles as we were graced with in Kevin Loach’s recent Scottish film, the very charming The Angels’ Share.
Having said that, what I call “Shakespeare’s Films” are incredibly romantic. To this day, Shakespeare in Love (1998) remains one of my favorite films in history, and the thwarted romance between Gwyneth Paltrow’s Viola De Lesseps and Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) was absolutely heartbreaking. For that and other reasons, I’ve always cherished the fact that Judi Dench won an Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth.
Against this backdrop I somewhat reluctantly went to see Much Ado About Nothing. And though it admittedly took me a bit of time to adjust to Shakespeare’s language, it soon wrapped me up in its romantic charm.
Filmed in black and white and taking place entirely in Co-Director David Stern’s home, you quickly fall prey to the tormented love relationship between Claudio and Hero, not to mention Beatrice and Benedict. Young lovers are nearly destroyed because of an insidious trap, while the older, cynical lovers find themselves magnetically attracted despite the unfortunate fact that they despise one another.
Daniel Emond was wonderful as Claudio, a guy who loves Jessica Richards in her role as Hero. She is as sweet as she is dazzling, and they seem destined to a life of bliss until Claudio is tricked by an ugly rumor. He is led to believe that he has witnessed her promiscuous conduct, and he publicly disdains her at the altar.
In the midst of all of this we find Benedict, a character warmly developed by Ari Itkin, as he publicly disdains marriage with great vigor. He finds marriage to any woman to be a quick train ride to Hell, and he proudly embraces his bachelor status.
Against him we find Jackie Robinson as Beatrice, an enormously gifted woman who considers Benedict to be an arrogant prick. Their encounters are memorable, finding her dripping with caustic contempt while he sees her as a woman who represents why men shouldn’t marry.
Caught in a web of deceit, the fathers of Claudio and Hero wrestle with the results. They don’t know who to despise, much less believe, and it leads to the help of a local sheriff and his deputy who appear to have the same comic flair as Barney Fife and Goober from the old Andy Griffith TV show.
In the ensuing nightmare the strengths of both Beatrice and Benedict are revealed. Having been tricked by friends into believing that the other actually was hiding deep feelings of love behind a hateful surface, they rally to each other to help both Claudio and Hero.
While I must admit that the dialogue continued to escape me at times throughout the film, it gradually reached the point that it didn’t matter. You really didn’t need the language to fully understand what was going on, and the performances of the entire cast captured your heart.
This is a film of meaning and consequence, and you should see it whether you eventually watch it in the theater or at home. It really doesn’t matter, as you can simply embrace Shakespeare as he reminds all of us of the reasons why it is so glorious to be a human being despite all of our shortcomings.