Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

I wonder what it says about people that we so love to the idea of overt antagonism hiding covert affection?  Western people, at least - I'm not familiar enough with other cultures to make claims about them.  The screwball comedies of the 30s are pretty much built on the concept of verbal sparring that leads to romance, for instance, but they are far from the first example: I doubt Bill Shakespeare was either, but he does show us the theme's been around for at least five hundred years.

There are two relationships that tie Much Ado About Nothing together.  The one that gets the majority of the screen time (and is frankly much more fun) is between Beatrice and Benedick.  The two of them are both avowedly single, and like nothing so much as to engage in running battles of wit, each attempting to out-talk and out-insult the other.  So you know pretty much from the first time they're on screen together that they'll end up as a couple.

I mean, you'd know that anyway, since it's Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in an early 90s movie together, but even if it wasn't, the cues are obvious.

While Beatrice and Benedick's reluctant romance is entirely a thing of comedy (often very funny comedy), the other relationship, between Hero and Claudio, is one of drama.  Honestly, it's mainly drama-filled because Claudio's a big old jerk.  I'm much less of a fan of it than I am of the other relationship, partly because the characters are less developed, most mostly because I don't like Claudio very much.

This is a Branagh film from the 90s, and it has all his trademarks: Shakespeare, Emma T, BRIAN BLESSED, and Richard Briers.  I'm not a huge fan of Briers in most of Branagh's films, but I guess Branagh was as big a fan of The Goode Life as I was, since he kept using Briers in everything.  It's also a fine showpiece of Branagh's skills as both director and actor.  As far as the former goes, he gets recognizable emotions out of Kate Beckinsale, which is no easy task.  He doesn't get them out of Keanu Reeves, but I guess that just means he's not a miracle worker.  As for acting, there's one scene in the film where we need to believe that the jovial Benedick we've seen all movie is also a skilled soldier, and he nails it.

This is a good adaptation of the play.  I'm not especially enamored of the buffoonish constables that form an important subplot, but we'll have to blame the source material for that.  Worth checking out if you want a charming comedy about romance that is not 'a romantic comedy', and don't mind having to deal with Shakespearian language.

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