Adapt and Make New – Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Much Ado – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon (screenplay) and William Shakespeare (play)
Stars: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, Clark Gregg, Jillian Morgese.

There is something about Shakespeare’s comedies that make for good adaptations. 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man, O, The Lion King, etc, have all taken on new looks of Shakespeare’s plays. And then there is the cinematic versions of the plays such as Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999), Othello (1995) etc. A good adaptation can be one that is true to the original text, or one that develops the ideas and narrative into a new setting. Joss Whedon has done both with his version of Much Ado About Nothing.

The film opens with a single piano note. A note that tells the audience that love is a thing that will cause both joy and sadness. It is with this simple note that the entire mood is set for the film. The film is shown in black and white, preparing the audience to see the blurred lines of grey in all the lies the characters tell one another, whether for good or for evil. And with the opening scene of Beatrice and Benedict as lovers you know you are in for an interesting take on Shakespeare’s tale of love, deception, rumours, and purity.

The best thing about this adaptation is Joss Whedon and the cast’s comedic timing. Much Ado is meant to be funny. It is a battle of wits between Benedict and Beatrice but here you see so much more of the comedy as played by all the characters. From little moments like Leonato (Clark Gregg) falling asleep/hung over in the kitchen and then being knocked awake and into speech, or Borachio (Spencer Treat Clark) standing creepily at the end of Don John’s bed. The comedy in this film is exceptional.

The way the film is shot is really interesting because of the different camera angles. The shots looking down from heights to where the characters are creates a voyeuristic feel. The audience is another member of the party and is privy to closed door conversations and monologues of characters. It feels very much like an amphitheatre at points, providing the film with visual cues back to the original play.

There are just some films that grab you from the first moment and don’t let you go until the credits roll. Much Ado held me through the laughter and the tears and made me want to revisit Shakespeare with a new passion. This film will make you laugh; it will make you question how you talk of others; it will make you question why you listen to rumours; and above all it will make you want to fall in love with innocence and joy.

5/5

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Films I Watch A Million Times Series – 10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You - Official Poster  - from IMDB.com

10 Things I Hate About You – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Director: Gil Junger
Writers: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, and William Shakespeare (play “The Taming of the Shrew”)
Stars: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I first saw 10 Things I Hate About You on a plane on the way to America as a 12 year old. I immediately loved it and it was always my dream as a teen to be like Kat. She was feisty, strong, had a mind of her own, and wasn’t going to be treated like a fool by anyone. It was her strength of mind that I loved most. She disregarded convention and was a rebel of a different kind. Kat rebelled against what was popular. In a lot of ways she was my first experience of indie, but it was more than that. I had never had much guts as a kid but heading into high school and becoming my own person (in my own mind anyway) was the chance to turn things around, to be a stronger woman, to stand against what I didn’t agree with, and be whoever she deemed she wanted to be. It was this that really connected me to the movie.

The relationships between all the characters are familiar to most as it is based on William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew which has had numerous renditions and adaptations. And as with most Shakespeare plays it has been done well and not so well as it has stood up to the testing of Hollywood. There are some really fantastic adaptations of Shakespeare including Baz Luhrmann’s modern Romeo & Juliet and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. However for adaptations into a new period and without the Shakespearean dialogue you can’t go past 10 Things I Hate About You. It stands on its own two feet as a good teen rom-com-drama as well as adapting a brilliant Shakespeare. The characterisation of Kat and Bianca are beautifully fulfilled by Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik, let alone the performances of the young Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Patrick Verona and Cameron James respectively. It was imaginatively formed and it came together to produce a film that would continue to be enjoyed throughout the next 13 years.

This film helped shape me as a person and there have been so many moments when I have quoted lines from this film in real life and then realised that only the people who have seen it millions of times would know the significance of a line like “Sleep is good” or “Yeah, that’s a Toyota.” It also made me want to have curly long hair like Julia Stiles but that was never going to happen with my straight-can’t-be-curled-hair. It was the attitude of Kat and Patrick that I fell in love with most. It was the carefree attitude mixed with strength and loyalty that I strived for and in a lot of ways still do. It’s hard to be a people pleaser but it’s also incredibly hard to not let people’s opinions of us get the better of us and command what we do, say, wear, like, etc.

10 Things I Hate About You still makes me laugh, cry, and think hard about how I’m acting in my life. Kat is one of my heroines of literature and even though this says a lot about me and the kind of person I want to be, I care more like Bianca and obsessive like Cameron, and slightly less delusional than Mandelia, and simply awkward like Michael. It is a film where I relate to pretty much every character and they have come with me in this journey of life as influencing characters who have reminded me of what is real, what is true, and what is honest.

I lived vicariously through Kat as I grew up as a teenager and wanted to be like her. She was my role model. She had the attitude and the lifestyle I wanted. She was intelligent, driven and quick-witted. She wanted to escape to the big city. She didn’t want anyone controlling her life. She was brilliant in my eyes. I know she was never the best example or role model but I love her all the same.

What film or character did you love through your teens? Do they still influence you to this day?