Nothing to Get Excited About

The Movie: “Much Ado About Nothing”

The Setup: Director Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of William Shakespeare’s twin tales of romance, one prickly--between Benedick (Branagh) and Beatrice (Emma Thompson, pictured, left, with Kate Beckinsale)--and one pleasant, though highly complex--between Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Hero (Beckinsale).

The Costume Designer: Phyllis Dalton, who won Academy Awards for “Dr. Zhivago” and Branagh’s “Henry V.”

The Look: Shakespeare lite. Lovers of luxury (read: brocade, netting, pearls) may be disappointed. There’s a decidedly, er, Shakespeare-in-the-park (read: low-budget) feeling to the plain frocks.


Women wear tight corsets secured over long dresses in white muslin. This pastoral look gets monotonous early on, and costume changes reveal only subtle differences among the designs.

It’s also white cotton for the men, whose military jackets pair with macho blue or black leather trousers and lovely, tall black riding boots. The leather trousers, which Dalton says are historically correct, appear misplaced. When a monk enters in a caramel-colored robe, it’s a relief to see color.

Bad Hair Days: Beatrice’s free-falling locks--looking as if they had just come out of hot rollers--seem out of sync with the period. The precision cut on Benedick is equally puzzling.

Quoted: “You were maybe expecting to see it in the Shakespearean period? No, Ken Branagh has a lot of quite strong ideas on the way things should look,” says Dalton.


Sources: Costumes, including the men’s tall boots by Anello & Davide, were made in London.