Shot in just 12 days in Joss Whedon's house, starring many of his friends, Much Ado About Nothing is a beautiful, evocative movie. Unlike another summer movie about what happens between people at parties, this one feels both elegant and naturalistic. It retains Shakespeare's original language but changes the minor character of Conrade to a lady, gives Beatrice and Benedick a sex scene, and adds smartphones, cars, knowing glances, eyebrow wiggles, tripping, bumping into things, gyrating hips, unbuttoning tops, and a few other contemporary touches.
At the post-screening Q&A on Saturday night at Lincoln Center, sketch comedy duo BriTANicK (Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher) spoke about their experiences on set as First Watchman and Second Watchman. Everyone was encouraged to hang out and drink, as long as "you didn't pass out in the shot." To Whedon, the plot of the play doesn't make sense unless everyone's drunk. Otherwise, why would someone arbitrarily break up a wedding? Why would another man arbitrarily offer to court a very eligible lady, heir to a great fortune, in someone else's name?
Scheduling conflicts meant each scene was shot in just two or three takes, intentionally giving the movie the feel of a filmed live performance. A miniscule budget meant each actor wore his/her own clothes (an audience member asked why the men looked so rumpled while the women looked so lovely). And because Whedon's stark walls looked weird in color, the film was shot in black and white, without any set decoration. Whatever the reasons, Whedon's decisions work. This very indie movie by a rather mainstream director might just be the summer's most original.