Astrology: Film: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (2013)

Roadside Attractions

It turns out, even in the 16th century, that mischievous friends were setting up unlikely and often unlikeable members of their circle to become romantic partners. And in Joss Whedon’s modern-day-SoCal version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing – Whedon also adapted the Bard’s words – Mercury the Trickster plays center stage in the romance department.

Let’s not forget that mythology generally considers Cupid to be Mercury’s son, which means that words (Mercury) and affection (Venus) often go together. Beatrice (Amy Acker) has a nasty tongue and a seething opinion of men, and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) hasn’t yet met a woman to melt his heart. They sound like the perfect couple, right?

Their friends actually think there’s great promise in matching them up, and create a Mercurial ruse. Within ear shot of each of these people – Beatrice hiding under a kitchen countertop and Benedick on the lawn – the group chatters on (Mercury) on how the other party has been smitten. The Mercurial news – lies, of course – stuns each of them. And suddenly, in their own minds (Mercury), they shed their inherently misanthropic combative modes to embrace Venus, becoming desired and lovable in the process. “I will be in love with her,” proclaims Benedict, and watching the newly self-designated sex symbol start flexing in front of Beatrice is worth the price of admission.

The story of Benedick and Beatrice is mirrored in Benedick’s buddy Claudio’s (Fran Kranz) falling for Beatrice’s cousin Hero (Jillian Morgese), with no ruse necessary.  However, a deeper level of trickery soon becomes evident. It’s perpetrated by Don John (Sean Maher), who wants to get back at Leonato (Clark Gregg) – Hero’s father, who owns the estate at which all the players have gathered. Don John’s henchmen create their own bit of deception, in which lovestruck Claudio comes to believe that Hero has been unfaithful. The law, in the person of earnest but bumbling constable Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) and his inept crew, also gets involved.

As it wends its way to restore harmony, Much Ado contains other modern paeans to Mercury – smart phones and iPods, among them, and a gorgeously seductive rendering of the Shakespearian song “Sigh no more,” set to music by the director. For those who know or suspect that good communication skills are what holds relationships together, this is a talk feast. Benedict says, “This can be no trick.” It was, and we love it.

Astrology Film Rating: ☿ (Mercury)

 

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