tek's rating: ¼

Much Ado About Nothing (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers!

This came out in 1993, but I didn't see it until 2022. It is, of course, an adaptation of Shakespeare's play of the same name (which I haven't read, and this is the first time I've seen it performed, so the story was completely new to me). There was a lot I didn't understand of what the characters said, because it's Shakespeare. But I understood enough to follow the plot. And I thought all the actors did a fine job. I didn't love the story, but it wasn't bad.

It's set in Messina, Sicily, though I'm not sure of the time period. Several hundred years ago, at least. A group of noblemen return from war, which Wikipedia informs me was a revolt by Don John (Keanu Reeves) against his brother, Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon (Denzel Washington). I did not pick up on the fact that John had rebelled against Pedro, since they seem like allies when the story begins. I had assumed they fought on the same side in some war, but I was mistaken. And it doesn't really surprise me, because Don John turns out to be a villain. Pedro and John are accompanied by some other men, including Benedick (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film) and Count Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard). They all stay with Governor Leonato, his brother Antonio (Brian Blessed), Leonato's daughter Hero (Kate Beckinsale), Hero's cousin Beatrice (Emma Thompson), and a bunch of other people. Benedick and Beatrice spend a lot of time insulting each other, and they both seem to be generally opposed to the whole concept of marriage, especially Benedick. But later Don Pedro and his friends trick each of them into thinking the other has professed their love, and it becomes obvious that they really do love each other. (Though they don't admit that to each other until much later in the film.) Meanwhile, Claudio has fallen in love with Hero, and Benedick talks a lot of shit about her to Claudio, but I'm not at all sure he really had anything against Hero. I think he was just saying all that stuff to dissuade Claudio from getting married. Anyway, Don Pedro woos Hero on Claudio's behalf. Don John tries to ruin that, but fails. But later one of his men, Borachio, comes up with another plan to keep Claudio and Hero apart. It was never really clear to me why John wanted to do that, except that he just seemed to be evil for the sake of being evil. Maybe it was some resentment against his brother, Pedro, though, I dunno.

Well, the plan was for Borachio to have sex with Hero's gentlewoman, Margaret (Imelda Staunton), allowing them to be seen by Don Pedro and Claudio, while tricking them into thinking it was Hero they were seeing, being unfaithful to Claudio. (I got the impression later that part of the issue was simply Hero not being a virgin before marriage, which I don't accept as a reason not to marry her, but of course if it really had been her, she would have been cheating on him, which is a good enough reason.) Incidentally, Borachio calls out Hero's name during the act, and I have no idea why that didn't seem to bother Margaret. We are given to understand later that she was not privy to the trick Borachio was playing, so it just seems weird that she wouldn't care. But whatever. Anyway, Claudio calls off the wedding in great anger at Hero, who has no idea what he's talking about, and is devastated. After Claudio and the guests all leave the wedding, the friar who was going to marry them comes up with a plan for Hero to pretend to have died as a result of her distress, because of course he does. This is a Shakespeare play, after all, and that's just the sort of thing friars do. Leonato and Antonio later confront Claudio and Don Pedro and accuse them of slandering Hero. Also, when Benedick and Beatrice finally confess their love to each other, she asks him to kill Claudio for what he's done to her cousin. But Borachio is overheard by guards when he tells a friend what he'd done, and the guards arrest him and his friend. They hand the prisoners over to the constable, who Wikipedia informs me is named Dogberry (Michael Keaton), who I thought was pretty weird, and more like a deranged pirate than a constable. He tries to inform Leonato of what Borachio had done, but Leonato is too busy to listen to him. (Maybe that was before the wedding, I forget. Yes, I think so.) But the truth does eventually come out, and there is ultimately a happy ending.

I guess that's all there is to say about the plot. I'm afraid I've given almost everything away, but there were things I wanted to say regarding the plot that I couldn't have said without explaining the plot itself. Anyway, there were some amusing bits, and plenty of drama. I was quite angry at both Don John and Borachio, of course. And there was one thing Leonato and Antonio did (or asked of Claudio) that didn't really make sense to me, but it does lead to a happy revelation. I still think it was unnecessary, and what really doesn't make sense to me is that Claudio agreed to it. But at the time, I suppose he felt he had no choice. Whatever. It's definitely a good movie, even if I couldn't really get behind all the motivations and such, for various plot points. And I guess that's all I can think to say.

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