Published on September 10th, 2012 | by SARA0
Much Ado About Nothing – World Premiere at TIFF 2012
Much Ado About Nothing premiered Saturday afternoon at the Elgin Theatre at the Toronto International Film Festival to a rapt audience. The entire cast was present for the premiere along with their mighty leader, Joss Whedon who was there to introduce the film.
During the Q&A following the film, many of the cast members described the experience of making “Much Ado” as a party at Joss’s house. Shakespeare reading parties at Joss Whedon’s house have been going on for years, and have become something of legend for Whedon’s rabid, adoring fan-base. A group of brilliant, talented, very good looking actors who all love to hang out and read Shakespeare, of course we want to see that! Whedon’s retelling of “Much Ado” feels like we’ve been invited to that party…
Made on a shoe-string budget and in black & white, Much Ado was shot in just over a week in Joss Whedon’s home. The low-budget was very noticeable but not distracting, instead it adds to the intimate feeling of the film. It’s as if we’re being included in the party, so clearly a labour of love, we become voyeurs in Leonato’s Estate, engulfed the world of Beatrice and Benedick, Hero and Claudio, and when the villainous Don John and Conrade lurked in the shadows they were outsiders to us too.
Much Ado featured brilliant physical comedy; one highlight comes from Alexis Denisof as Benedick as he rolls around in the background listening in on a conversation. This is only to be topped when Amy Acker as Beatrice takes klutzy yet somehow graceful face-first fall down the stairs only to pop right back up moments later. Nathan Fillion & Tom Lenk make a fantastic comedic duo sharing great bits of physical comedy with a certain sense of back and forth that hit just the right stride bringing out huge laughs from every scene that they stole.
Fran Kranz stood out among the hugely comic cast bringing nuanced angst and heartbreak to Claudio. Kranz can certainly play funny, but he can also play lovesick, heartbroken, betrayed and then once again euphorically in love. In the heart of a comedy Kranz hit so many of those high and low notes that just get you right in the feelings. It was this nuanced performance that made Claudio’s outburst and shaming of Hero at their wedding a far more conflicted moment than it could have been otherwise.
I could continue to rave about the actors (and I will) but I also want to talk about the camera that took on a distinct voice of its own and the work of Jay Hunter, Director of Photography on the film. There were beautiful artistic shots that lingered at all the right moments and the creative angles that captured the strangeness of a scene, cutting away to another just as strange, sometimes disorienting and others leading. One moment that comes to mind is in the bedroom with Don John (Sean Maher being an exceptional villain) and Conrade (Riki Lindhome) when Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark) appears seemingly out of nowhere. The camera work had many technical limitations given the budget and location of the film, Whedon explained at the Q&A that they made it feel “as docu style as possible” and it seemed to work in its favour adding another layer to the storytelling of this Shakespearean adaptation.
The party sequences were fluid as the camera drifted through the wild nights full of love and booze creating a dreamlike effect, or maybe a little bit of a drunken-haze, accented beautifully by Maurissa Tancharoen singing an original song, written by Jed Whedon and herself, next to the piano and the acrobats on a trapeze gliding above the party.
All the actors were brilliant and I could really just list them all. Acker was fiery and strong as Beatrice matching wits perfectly with Alexis Denisof who played the fool with such humour and quickly flipped the switch the serious when the situation called for it. I adore Ashley Johnson; she was often in the periphery as Margaret but made every moment, even in the background count for everything. Clark Gregg and Reed Diamond were great as Leonato and Don Pedro; the watchmen were funny as they fumbled about led by Fillion’s Dogberry and Lenk’s Verges. Jillian Morgese played Hero with a delicate charm.
Joss Whedon interrupted the Q&A noticing that his actors were standing in the shadows of the projection. He told them to find their light and the seventeen cast members on stage immediately stepped forward together. That moment seems to be representative of how he makes his films, always looking out for his actors, making sure that they look their best. OR as Reed Diamond, followed up “that makes my point perfectly, you always know you’re in good hands with Joss. He builds the best playground, invites the coolest kids to come play and go crazy”.
Much Ado About Nothing is a witty, fun comedy brought to life by wonderful people who love the play, and loved making the film. I urge you to go see the film if you can. There is still one more screening during TIFF this Friday September 14 at 11am.