Based on the play by William Shakespeare.
Genre: classic; play; romantic comedy
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Kate Beckinsale, Imelda Staunton, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington
Plot Summary (from Wikipedia): “Much Ado About Nothing chronicles two pairs of lovers: Benedick and Beatrice (the main couple), and Claudio and Hero (the secondary couple). Benedick and Beatrice are engaged in a very “merry war”; they are both very witty and proclaim their disdain of love. In contrast, Claudio and Hero are sweet young people who are rendered practically speechless by their love for one another. Although the young lovers Hero and Claudio provide the main impetus for the plot, the courtship between the wittier, wiser lovers Benedick and Beatrice is what makes Much Ado About Nothing so memorable. Benedick and Beatrice argue with delightful wit, and Shakespeare develops their journey from antagonism to sincere love and affection with a rich sense of humor and compassion.”
My Review: This being my favorite work by Shakespeare, I love seeing any dramatized version of it. Two people self-sworn to the single life… gradually being attracted to each other and ultimately falling in love—what’s not to love? This romantic play isn’t as heavy and serious as others by the Bard, which is probably why I prefer it over others. The story can be described as billowing cheerfulness, rhythmical, with great quotable lines.
I don’t read Shakespeare. I just can’t make heads or tails of it by myself. I much prefer to see it in film (or maybe some day on the stage), where I can see the actors’ facial expressions, hear the tones of their voices, and their own creative interpretations of the lines. This is how it was meant to be enjoyed, anyway! While this wasn’t the first time I’d seen Much Ado… (I’d seen the 1973 version with Sam Waterston), it had been a few years and checked this out of the library.
My feelings are mixed about Branagh’s version. I really liked the fact that it was fit into a 2 hour time frame. Even though I love the story, as an average viewer I still don’t feel like sitting there for 3-4 hours slogging my way through thick olde English. I loved the enthusiasm of the actors, who performed their parts well as I was able to easily understand them for the most part. I especially liked Kenneth Branagh as Benedick, and his banter back and forth with Emma Thompson. The pair made a great match! I absolutely loved the character of Don Pedro, portrayed by Denzel Washington with gentle strength. He honestly had my heart and if I were Beatrice I would have taken him! The beautiful music complemented the film, and a lush Mediterranean landscape with gorgeous gardens made for pleasant viewing.
But there were also things I disliked. There is a good deal of sensuality from the very beginning. One of the opening scenes shows brief nudity. There was also a “bedroom” scene I had to look away from, and I was continually worried about Beatrice’s having a wardrobe malfunction. I also did not like the role of Dogberry. That was the only part I could not understand,– whether it be the character as Shakespeare created him to be or the actor’s interpretation of him, I don’t know. I cringed every time he appeared and couldn’t wait for his exit. Fortunately he did not have large parts and wasn’t in the main scenes.
I would say I am glad to have seen this adaptation, as I think Branagh’s interpretation has added more scope to my favorite Shakespearean play, but I might choose the Sam Waterston one overtop of it. I don’t really feel that this version is going to be one I want to rewatch. If you are completely sold out for Shakespeare, this will be one you won’t to miss, but unfortunately not one I’d exactly recommend for family viewing.