At the conclusion to this pleasingly stripped down project, Claudio (Fran Kranz) declares he would marry the bride in front of him even “were she an Ethiope”. A cough among the assembled guests – an open admission of embarrassment at the wild racism of Shakespeare’s line. Indeed, it is the film’s greatest quality that it works as much against the source material as with it. Faithfully reproducing its dialogue, Whedon’s talented cast of collaborators are clearly tasked with performing their roles as if it were a silent movie – the audience’s understanding of the verbiage not something to be depended upon. The improvisation of performance in Whedon’s home (coupled with the ability of the close up and of camera angles) does a great job at conveying the emotional logic from scene to scene, while the slapstick silliness does away with the stuffy prestige of the Bard. It is far funnier than the somewhat weak material has any right to be.
Not everything can be changed, though, with misogynistic representation a lynchpin to the story – the tension easily detected as the feminist director has Amy Acker spout “If I were a man”. Meanwhile the location, so great for the majority of the film, is student-level at its “police station”. But that Much Ado About Nothing is a student film, a home movie, is something to be embraced. On mandatory holiday from the megabucks blockbuster Avengers, Whedon made a film as reminiscent of Classical Hollywood as you’re likely to see for a while.