We’re about to finish this year’s challenge! (Yay!) I do apologize if I haven’t been able to update this blog for my recent film viewings but I do promise (and I will try best) to post all of them before the year ends (which is in two days by the way.. eeek!). I created an excel file which showed the statistics of my day to day viewing and saved this on my 3 year old laptop which, unnfortunately, retired early this year.
Hence, I was only able to retrieve the ones I saved earlier on my journal (from January to March) and have been saving some on my phone from end of July till present. I have been finishing this one blog post about Josh Whedon’s retelling of one of my favorite Shakespeare comedies. And as I’ve stated before I’m not much of a critic so I’ve created a film “experience” about the film. If you’re interested, read on.
Screenplay by Josh Whedon
Starring Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, Nathan Fillion, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Spencer Treat Clark, Riki Lindhome, Ashley Johnson, Emma Bates and Tom Lenk
I’ve seen the 1993 version of one of my favorite Shakespearean comedy and was delighted with that version. But I have never been more excited to find this fresh, modern take on the classic tale between witty lovers Lady Beatrice and Signor Benedick and the almost tragic love story of Count Claudio and Lady Beatrice’s cousin, Hero. The play that was first published in 1623 has both elements of politics, love, honor, deception and comedy. The 1993 version stayed true to the play being set in the 17th Century with it’s costume and production arrangements. This film from Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Josh Whedon offers a fresh take by putting all characters in modern clothes but the dialogue stays true to Shakespearean prose.
It’s set in black and white, and the film starts as Lady Beatrice and Signor Benedick (played by Amy Acker and Alex Denisof) are in a flashback.
Leonato (Gregg) the governor of Messina, his daughter Hero (Morgese) and only heir, and Lady Beatrice all gathered in the kitchen of Messina, a posh Hampton-esque home which is actually set in Santa Monica, CA. A message has been delivered that Don Pedro, a prince from Aragon along with his men Benedick and Count Claudio (Kranz) have come back from a successful battle. This message is literally sent into Governor Leonato’s Blackberry via BBM. Upon hearing this, Lady Beatrice pokes fun of his service as a soldier. The two have a longtime “merry war” between them thus almost all throughout the film. Count Claudio, who has been in love with Hero for quite some time now rekindles his feelings with Hero upon seeing her.
Later that evening, a planned masquerade ball is held in the backyard of this makeshift Messina. Don Pedro disguises as Count Claudio in order to woo Hero. The scene, masked in the serenity of the outdoors, tipsy guests, wine, acrobatic dancers and a bossa nova song in the background makes it feel oh-so-sexy without losing it’s intention to the origins of this story. At the ball we find Signor Benedick garbed in an Arabic shawl covering half his face as his mask, while Lady Beatrice wears the same satin gown she wore in the flashback and a bejeweled mask. They banter around about Signor Benedick, LB either knows that the man masked in the Arabic shawl is Signor Benedick, or not but proceeds in belittling him, stating that Signor Benedick is a ‘Prince’s Jester’, a dull fool. On some corner of the party we find Count Claudio glancing at Hero and Don Pedro, with a hint that he may be a little bit jealous that it isn’t he who’s wooing Hero at this moment. He proceeds to drinking a bit more for the night to mask his anxiety.
The morning after we find Count Claudio, drunk and dipped in the pool with goggles. Don Pedro’s brother, Don John along with his friends Comrade and Borachio (Lindhome and Clark) float from behind telling Count Claudio that Hero has a thing for Don Pedro. The count is furious, thinking that his companion has betrayed him. Everyone in the kitchen convinces him that Don Pedro has successfully wooed Hero and a wedding can be scheduled the next day. The two lovers are as merry as a peach but in the background we find Lady Beatrice and Signor Benedick begin to banter again to each other. Once the two leave the room, everyone else begins to plan how to match the two.
That very day, Signor Benedick spies on Leonato, Don Pedro, and Count Claudio stating that they overheard from Hero and the house maid Ursula that Lady Benedick has professed hidden desire for Signor Benedick. He cannot believe it himself but he begins to like the idea. I have been waiting for him to mutter the words ” Love me? Why it must be requited!” which were my favorite lines from the original play. And yes he does say it at this point. Alexis Denisof’s Signor Benedick is as witty and comical as Kenneth Branagh’s, his playboy air isn’t lost at all which makes his portrayal in this film convincing. At first I thought he would be too old for Amy Acker, but then it kind of grows on you. The women also talk about Signor Benedick’s confession, making it a bit loud for Lady Beatrice to overhear. She too, begins to like the idea that Signor Benedick may have feelings for her after all.
The film which was just shot in 12 days at a house in Santa Monica that Josh Whedon’s wife had designed. I am amazed at how brilliant the screenplay was created, it still stayed true to Shakespeare’s original play and at the same time audiences of this generation will still relate to it’s prose, a prose filled with humor and a wise poke at gender politics, deceit, and romance. Amy Acker’s performance is young and smart and at the same time she brings out the vulnerability that a strong woman often hides. Fran Kranz’ expresses Count Claudio in the most charming way possible as he is smitten and oftentimes too easily deceived by this love he feels for Hero. Although of course Hero hasn’t really done anything to deceive him.
I don’t think you won’t be needing SparkNotes to understand this movie, which makes it great since this contemporary version is as close to it’s original screenplay and yet it never looses it’s charm and wit that it looses when Shakespeare’s plays are interpreted in these modern times.