Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Jillian Morgese.
FILM SYNOPSIS: One of William Shakespeare’s most charming, funny and romantic plays gets a modern-day setting in filmmaker Joss Whedon’s new rendition. He places the story of two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance into today’s time, but leaves the Bard’s wry way with words and intent intact.
PREVIEW REVIEW: What a condemning message this film sends to educators who have failed to teach the artistry of even a simply declarative sentence. With all the strides modern man has made in the world of communication, his inability to emulate the eloquence of the Bard’s thoughtful and whimsical language here smacks us in the face. Despite all the modes of media available, there seem to be so few communicators willing to reintroduce wit and substantial discourse back into our way of communicating. Why is that? Language today has been coarsened up and dumbed down, and too many who use it to make a buck do so without the slightest intent of edifying the listener. (Hey, I’m just going by what assaults my ears at the local mall.)
In other words, what a pleasure to see a movie wherein humor, passion and exclamation are spoken without the use of today’s more coarse, crude, crass and uncouth means of expression.
The other insight this production furnishes has to do with social mores. The story’s bad guy attempts to destroy the reputation of the fair and chaste maiden by the name of Hero. By misleading the groom-to-be, this villain nearly causes people to kill one another over the false accusation he uses to bring havoc on his brother and those associated with him. Nowadays many walking down the aisle in symbolic white are mis-dressed, having left their virginal maidenhood behind long before nuptials were read. No one minds, let alone is willing to call her out about previous illicit behavior. Not anymore. But long ago sex outside marriage was a no-no.
At Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, you’d find much bawdiness (crudity masked with wit) in the mass-pleasing theater of the day. Spring ahead to the comedy cinemas of today and we find that humor is now manufactured by those who mine all things funny not just in the outhouse, but from beneath it. They seldom use wit to make their audiences laugh. Just outlandishness. And to be as outlandish as possible means to say and show things we were taught as children not to do in public. They do it on a 40-foot screen. And they become rich and famous by doing it.
But let’s not present William Shakespeare as a man of manners. As some of his more gauche comic writings validate, he could also succumb to the temptation of using vulgarity in order to hold his audience, as evidenced by the blatant sexuality found in his play, and now this movie. But despite this film’s three rather graphic sexual dalliances, the production can be looked upon as a lesson in morality.
One of my favorite scenes in movies is found in the 1993 Kenneth Branagh production of Much Ado About Nothing. The director/actor, as Benedick, shares the camera frame with then wife Emma Thompson, playing Beatrice. During the sequence, he asks how she fares.
“Very ill,” she replies.
To which he responds, “Serve God…love me…and mend.”
It’s a wonderful screen moment and while watching the couple perform it with such a loving exchange, I remember thinking, “They’re the new Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn!” Alas, a year later, they were divorced. But that picture remains etched in my mind as one where God is reverenced and man reaches out expressively to his beloved. It is a lesson in how we are to treat God and one another.
Though I find that film version a superior adaptation, with that line in particular delivered with more resonance than this update, still this version is an impressive eye-and earful of whimsical farce worth experiencing.
Made by a filmmaker who doesn’t just want to be known only for his superhero battle sequences (he helmed Marvel’s The Avengers), the production is elegantly photographed in black and white, and it is said that the entire film was shot in twelve days. And did I mention, the characters all talk real good?