Much Ado About Joss Whedon

What's black and white with fireflies all over it? Joss Whedon's filmic debut into Shakespeare.

On a rare sunny Fathers Day, Peter Cochran, his daughter Abi (she to whom my watch ticks), Sam Weinle and myself ducked into the cool dark of the picture house - because as Diane Keaton once may have said 'I have a terrible addiction to going to movies in the day time'. Two fathers present: check.

Unlike the illustrious Dr Cochran, whose book Small-Screen Shakespeare has just come out in hardback (where is the affordable paperback CSP?), I am completely unable to tell which scenes were cut and whose sex has been tweaked. I'd have to enjoy this trotting out of the Whedon club from the perspective of a Firefly fan - and I did.

What can you do when you are stripped of all special effects and all fantastic settings? No space, no lasers, no galactic empires, no voodoo, no robots, ah yes, and no superheroes, no matter where they wear their underwear.

Much can be done. It requires one house, many guests, love and the lord of misrule. Comedy must ensue, especially given the titanic amount of alcohol that the cast tilt, glug and splash in the various scenes (my everlasting favourite being Claudio holding a martini in the pool with his scuba mask on - with shades of apocalypse now as Don John and his cronies rise from the water a la Sheen).

As Sam (fourteen years of teenage wisdom) told us: 'it was all talk'. Scenes were closely confined into spare bedrooms and corridors. The dialogue was near continuous with the exception of musical interludes. How else to fit so much plot, by modern lights, into so short a film?

But I come to praise Whedon not to bury him! Even the teen-critic hailed the duping of Benedick at the French doors a comic tour de force, even if he did claim that such a fuss was made over Shakespeare and he would probably be forgotten in the next fifty years: stage right enter Peter Cochran, counsel for the Bard, with a litany of statistics that the pentameter is on the rise.

Let me render unto Whedon what is his and not credit him with the rights of the play. The pretence in this version is a form of FBI safe house, the cast stylishly outfitted in rat pack suits. The text is original to the best of my knowledge and the cast aren't strong-armed into any funny accents, a good directorial call. The choice to shoot in black and white eliminates the techno-color sunshine, which may have felt a touch too Hollywood, and brings a different brotherhood of films to mind.

So for those who are Firefly-minded I can reassure you that our boys did good - Fillion as Dogberry gets some choice lines dealt to him but he plays them tremendously well (there is little chance for him to display his Harrison Ford fight skills in this outing). The Maher holds up the counter balance of the pernicious Don Jon exceptionally well, especially as background on that character is one of the playwrights shaky points. Outside of the flies Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are outstanding in their roles.

In the great Venn diagram of viewers I cannot say what the overlap will be between Buffy, Serenity, Avengers and Much. I hope its a good number as the in fighting between characters and the thrust of life's great trials is handled by Whedon in all four. No vampires or rockets, no cowboys or angels. Perhaps the shiny trinkets that lead in a teen viewer are missing in this one? We shall have to wait for viewing figures to reveal all.

Amazingly this is a micro-budget movie, in a way someone with a chocolate box of actor friends might make a micro-budget movie. It shot in Whedon's own house - or more precisely his wife's house as she was the architect. I wonder if she knew there was going to be a movie shot on the location when she included a mini Athenian forum in the garden?

And what of Abi Cochran, whose sphinx-like wisdom exceeds all? She liked it.


  1. IMDB gives it 6.9 -
    I'd give it....7.3. Best Shakespeare on the screen since Baz's Romeo and Juliet (which only has a IMDB 6.8)

  2. Sometimes I struggle to understand what goes on inside IMDB!

  3. Just checked and Serenity gets a 7.9 - you'd expect it to be in the same ball park wouldn't you?

  4. I thought for a while that Amy might have played Mr Universe's lovebot but it turns out to be Nectar Rose...


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