Much Ado About Nothing


1h 51m 1993
Much Ado About Nothing

Brief Synopsis

Friends plot to make sworn enemies fall in love.

Film Details

Also Known As
Beaucoup de bruit pour rien, Mycket väsen för ingenting
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Period
Adaptation
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
1993
Distribution Company
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Location
Chianti Valley, Tuscany, Italy

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m

Synopsis

Don Pedro has defeated his brother Don John in battle and returns victorious to the home of his friend Leonato. Don Pedro's man Claudio falls in love with Leonato's daughter Hero and plans to marry her, but the devious Don John hatches a scheme to keep them apart. Meanwhile, Don Pedro brings together his woman-hating second in command with Leonato's niece Beatrice.

Film Details

Also Known As
Beaucoup de bruit pour rien, Mycket väsen för ingenting
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Period
Adaptation
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
1993
Distribution Company
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Location
Chianti Valley, Tuscany, Italy

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m

Articles

Much Ado About Nothing


Gents and lasses picnic on a verdant slope, music and poetry fill the air, everyone cheers the return of a local hero, horses gallop toward the town, the flag is hoisted high, naked men and women plunge into communal baths, and a mighty crew of movie stars - Kenneth Branagh, Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Robert Sean Leonard - make a spectacular entrance. All this and the opening credits still haven't ended!

Branagh is the director, adapter, coproducer, and star of Much Ado About Nothing (1993), and you can tell how much he loves this comedy from the tremendous amount of work he puts into making it breezy and entertaining for modern audiences who may not have William Shakespeare on their bedside tables. One of his smartest decisions was to choose this particular play, which focuses more single-mindedly on the ups and downs of courtship, commitment, and romantic rivalry than, say, the average Elizabethan tragedy. Shakespeare wrote much of the dialogue in prose, saving blank verse for the most poetic passages, and the story plunges steadily ahead with little time spent on subplots or digressions. It's all a bit silly, but Branagh keeps it lively from start to finish.

The story begins with the return of those heroes. Benedick (Branagh), Don Pedro (Washington), Claudio (Leonard), and Don John (Reeves) have conquered the enemy, and now they're ready to conquer some winsome ladies back home. Claudio is the most eager of them all, being head over heels for Hero (Kate Beckinsale), whose father, Leonato (Richard Briers), is the ruler of the realm. Youthful and shy, Claudio isn't sure his courtship will succeed, so Don Pedro helps him on the sly, wooing Hero on his behalf. Claudio burns with jealousy when he sees his closest friend talking intimately with the woman of his dreams, but he's delighted when the ruse is revealed and Hero falls into his arms. Wedding plans proceed without delay. But just when you thought the pair were cruising smoothly toward marriage, the jealous and resentful Don John launches a scheme to split them up, making it look like Hero is being unfaithful when it's actually her maid Margaret (Imelda Staunton) canoodling with another man.

Benedick is in different situation. He's always had a prickly relationship with Leonato's niece, Beatrice (Emma Thompson), and he's a confirmed bachelor to boot. He and Beatrice start exchanging insults the moment they set eyes on each other, and it's hard to imagine them ever getting along. Then again, bickering all the time means paying attention to each other all the time, and the people who know them best think their apparent hate is really love in disguise. So another trick is played: Don Pedro joins with Claudio and Hero to make proud Benedick and feisty Beatrice into a happy couple. Also on the scene is Dogberry (Michael Keaton), a harebrained constable with deputies even more loopy than he is, and Friar Francis (Jimmy Yuill), who cooks up a phony-death hoax almost worthy of the famous Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet.

This was Branagh's second adaptation of Shakespeare for the screen. Three years earlier he had made his directorial debut with a dark and violent version of Henry V, meant to contrast vividly with Laurence Olivier's colorful 1944 rendition of the play. Shakespeare came naturally to Branagh, who was trained at Britain's renowned Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and played the eponymous monarch in a hit 1984 production of Henry V by the Royal Shakespeare Company, on which his first film was based. He followed this with two contemporary pictures - the mystery Dead Again in 1991 and the romcom Peter's Friends in 1992 - and then felt the Shakespearean itch that resulted in Much Ado About Nothing and later in movie versions of Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006). Branagh's other films range from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) to Thor (2011), but his Shakespeare adaptations will probably be his most important legacy.

The cast of Much Ado About Nothing is mostly excellent. Thompson had appeared in all of Branagh's previous pictures - they were married at the time - and possessed more than enough spirit to play Beatrice, the sharp-tongued softie who's against Benedick until she's for him. The casting choice that raised the most eyebrows was Reeves, whose work in teen-oriented stories like Tim Hunter's River's Edge (1986) and Stephen Herek's Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) had not created the impression that Shakespeare was in his future. He wasn't entirely unprepared, however. He came to Branagh directly from Francis Ford Coppola's period shocker Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), and Gus Van Sant's drama My Own Private Idaho is partly based on three of Shakespeare's history plays, including Henry V, obviously one of Branagh's favorites. Reeves's experience pays off in a sturdy, persuasive portrayal of the villainous Don John, and Leonard balances him nicely as Claudio, the sweetest man in the story except for Don Pedro, who's handled by Washington with boundless charm.

The film isn't flawless, to be sure. Beckinsale doesn't get much to do as Hero, although you couldn't ask for a more beautiful heroine, and Keaton makes one of Shakespeare's clunkier clown characters - Dogberry, the krazy kop - as over-the-top nonsensical as a one-man Three Stooges act. (It almost is a Three Stooges act, since Dogberry's deputies are as idiotic as he is.) It's also odd to see Branagh steal a bit of business from Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones's 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail, having Dogberry and his partner Verges (Ben Elton) trot up the street on make-believe horses, making clip-clop noises as they go.

But whatever you think of the film's shortcomings, you have to be enchanted by the finale, a Steadicam ballet showing revelers galore, dancing and carousing all over Leonato's sun-struck domain while Patrick Doyle's rousing score swells on the soundtrack. Much Ado About Nothing closes on a delightfully life-affirming note, and that's really something.

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Producers: Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Evans, David Parfitt
Screenplay: William Shakespeare; adapted for the screen by Kenneth Branagh
Cinematographer: Roger Lanser
Film Editing: Andrew Marcus
Art Direction: Martin Childs
Music: Patrick Doyle
With: Kenneth Branagh (Benedick), Emma Thompson (Beatrice), Denzel Washington (Don Pedro), Kate Beckinsale (Hero), Robert Sean Leonard (Claudio), Imelda Staunton (Margaret), Keanu Reeves (Don John), Phyllida Law (Ursula), Michael Keaton (Dogberry), Richard Briers (Leonato), Brian Blessed (Antonio), Gerard Horan (Borachio), Jimmy Yuill (Friar Francis), Andy Hockley (George Seacole), Chris Barnes (Francis Seacole), Conrad Nelson (Hugh Oatcake), Richard Clifforde (Conrade), Patrick Doyle (Balthazar), Ben Elton (Verges), Edward Jewesbury (Sexton).
C-111m.

by David Sterritt
Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Gents and lasses picnic on a verdant slope, music and poetry fill the air, everyone cheers the return of a local hero, horses gallop toward the town, the flag is hoisted high, naked men and women plunge into communal baths, and a mighty crew of movie stars - Kenneth Branagh, Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Robert Sean Leonard - make a spectacular entrance. All this and the opening credits still haven't ended! Branagh is the director, adapter, coproducer, and star of Much Ado About Nothing (1993), and you can tell how much he loves this comedy from the tremendous amount of work he puts into making it breezy and entertaining for modern audiences who may not have William Shakespeare on their bedside tables. One of his smartest decisions was to choose this particular play, which focuses more single-mindedly on the ups and downs of courtship, commitment, and romantic rivalry than, say, the average Elizabethan tragedy. Shakespeare wrote much of the dialogue in prose, saving blank verse for the most poetic passages, and the story plunges steadily ahead with little time spent on subplots or digressions. It's all a bit silly, but Branagh keeps it lively from start to finish. The story begins with the return of those heroes. Benedick (Branagh), Don Pedro (Washington), Claudio (Leonard), and Don John (Reeves) have conquered the enemy, and now they're ready to conquer some winsome ladies back home. Claudio is the most eager of them all, being head over heels for Hero (Kate Beckinsale), whose father, Leonato (Richard Briers), is the ruler of the realm. Youthful and shy, Claudio isn't sure his courtship will succeed, so Don Pedro helps him on the sly, wooing Hero on his behalf. Claudio burns with jealousy when he sees his closest friend talking intimately with the woman of his dreams, but he's delighted when the ruse is revealed and Hero falls into his arms. Wedding plans proceed without delay. But just when you thought the pair were cruising smoothly toward marriage, the jealous and resentful Don John launches a scheme to split them up, making it look like Hero is being unfaithful when it's actually her maid Margaret (Imelda Staunton) canoodling with another man. Benedick is in different situation. He's always had a prickly relationship with Leonato's niece, Beatrice (Emma Thompson), and he's a confirmed bachelor to boot. He and Beatrice start exchanging insults the moment they set eyes on each other, and it's hard to imagine them ever getting along. Then again, bickering all the time means paying attention to each other all the time, and the people who know them best think their apparent hate is really love in disguise. So another trick is played: Don Pedro joins with Claudio and Hero to make proud Benedick and feisty Beatrice into a happy couple. Also on the scene is Dogberry (Michael Keaton), a harebrained constable with deputies even more loopy than he is, and Friar Francis (Jimmy Yuill), who cooks up a phony-death hoax almost worthy of the famous Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet. This was Branagh's second adaptation of Shakespeare for the screen. Three years earlier he had made his directorial debut with a dark and violent version of Henry V, meant to contrast vividly with Laurence Olivier's colorful 1944 rendition of the play. Shakespeare came naturally to Branagh, who was trained at Britain's renowned Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and played the eponymous monarch in a hit 1984 production of Henry V by the Royal Shakespeare Company, on which his first film was based. He followed this with two contemporary pictures - the mystery Dead Again in 1991 and the romcom Peter's Friends in 1992 - and then felt the Shakespearean itch that resulted in Much Ado About Nothing and later in movie versions of Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006). Branagh's other films range from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) to Thor (2011), but his Shakespeare adaptations will probably be his most important legacy. The cast of Much Ado About Nothing is mostly excellent. Thompson had appeared in all of Branagh's previous pictures - they were married at the time - and possessed more than enough spirit to play Beatrice, the sharp-tongued softie who's against Benedick until she's for him. The casting choice that raised the most eyebrows was Reeves, whose work in teen-oriented stories like Tim Hunter's River's Edge (1986) and Stephen Herek's Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) had not created the impression that Shakespeare was in his future. He wasn't entirely unprepared, however. He came to Branagh directly from Francis Ford Coppola's period shocker Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), and Gus Van Sant's drama My Own Private Idaho is partly based on three of Shakespeare's history plays, including Henry V, obviously one of Branagh's favorites. Reeves's experience pays off in a sturdy, persuasive portrayal of the villainous Don John, and Leonard balances him nicely as Claudio, the sweetest man in the story except for Don Pedro, who's handled by Washington with boundless charm. The film isn't flawless, to be sure. Beckinsale doesn't get much to do as Hero, although you couldn't ask for a more beautiful heroine, and Keaton makes one of Shakespeare's clunkier clown characters - Dogberry, the krazy kop - as over-the-top nonsensical as a one-man Three Stooges act. (It almost is a Three Stooges act, since Dogberry's deputies are as idiotic as he is.) It's also odd to see Branagh steal a bit of business from Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones's 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail, having Dogberry and his partner Verges (Ben Elton) trot up the street on make-believe horses, making clip-clop noises as they go. But whatever you think of the film's shortcomings, you have to be enchanted by the finale, a Steadicam ballet showing revelers galore, dancing and carousing all over Leonato's sun-struck domain while Patrick Doyle's rousing score swells on the soundtrack. Much Ado About Nothing closes on a delightfully life-affirming note, and that's really something. Director: Kenneth Branagh Producers: Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Evans, David Parfitt Screenplay: William Shakespeare; adapted for the screen by Kenneth Branagh Cinematographer: Roger Lanser Film Editing: Andrew Marcus Art Direction: Martin Childs Music: Patrick Doyle With: Kenneth Branagh (Benedick), Emma Thompson (Beatrice), Denzel Washington (Don Pedro), Kate Beckinsale (Hero), Robert Sean Leonard (Claudio), Imelda Staunton (Margaret), Keanu Reeves (Don John), Phyllida Law (Ursula), Michael Keaton (Dogberry), Richard Briers (Leonato), Brian Blessed (Antonio), Gerard Horan (Borachio), Jimmy Yuill (Friar Francis), Andy Hockley (George Seacole), Chris Barnes (Francis Seacole), Conrad Nelson (Hugh Oatcake), Richard Clifforde (Conrade), Patrick Doyle (Balthazar), Ben Elton (Verges), Edward Jewesbury (Sexton). C-111m. by David Sterritt

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Expanded Release in United States September 24, 1993

Released in United States on Video March 2, 1994

Released in United States October 1993

Shown at MIFED in Milan October 24-29, 1993.

Began shooting August 3, 1992.

Completed shooting September 18, 1992.

Released in United States Spring May 7, 1993

Limited Release in United States May 14, 1993

Expanded Release in United States June 18, 1993

Expanded Release in United States September 24, 1993

Released in United States on Video March 2, 1994

Released in United States October 1993 (Shown at MIFED in Milan October 24-29, 1993.)

Nominated for two 1993 Spirit Awards by the Independent Feature Project/West, including best film and best actress (Emma Thompson).

Released in United States Spring May 7, 1993

Limited Release in United States May 14, 1993

Expanded Release in United States June 18, 1993

Emma Thompson won the Evening Standard Award for best actress for her performances in "Much Ado About Nothing" (Great Britain/USA/1993) and "The Remains of the Day" (USA/1993).