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Shakespeare in Love

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Shakespeare in Love

Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: John Madden
Rated: R
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: December 1998
Genres: Comedy, Romance

Review by Walter Frith
4 stars out of 4

One of the most flawless films of 1998 has arrived and it is called 'Shakespeare in Love'. This is high spirited entertainment that is rousing and the best thing about it is that it treats the time that it's set in (the 16th century) with all the understanding of the 20th century in terms of its use of dialogue. It isn't a high brow period piece where you need an interpreter of Shakespearean literature to translate everything for you. The majority of the words spoken are comprehensible for the layman and enough to hopefully satisfy even the most radical fan of the most influential writer of all time. Having said that, it should also be noted that there are no real stars in the picture, giving it a great look of authenticity and believing that the people you are seeing are indeed the characters they're playing and not themselves. I man wiser than I once said, "Give me no stars, just talent." This is where you'll find it.

The film is a fictional romp of how the influences in Shakespeare's own life were the inspiration to finalize his play of 'Romeo and Juliet'. Given another title originally in the film, it doesn't sound right to most and the final title rolls off the tongue with anticipation for those wishing to see it.

Gwyneth Paltrow is Viola, the daughter of a wealthy man and her marriage is arranged and she is to marry Lord Wessex (Colin Firth), a man of little warm emotion and who has plenty of cold domineering sides to his personality and a man whom Viola can't stand. Her heart belongs to Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes). The two meet and fall in love and are inseparable just as Romeo and Juliet were. What's amusing in all of this is the fact that at the time, Shakespeare was not regarded, as the film states, as a great literary giant of his time but as a struggling writer whose plays were always approached with crossing fingers for success. My, how things have changed based on the film's message here.

There is an assorted cast of characters in this film that give it the free spirit it needs so as not to be bogged down with the assuming slow pace of a romance. This film has the cocky one (Ben Affleck). He's an actor who demands perfection and decides who is fit to work with him. Ohhh, the stiff upper lip of him. Really! There is the clownish one (Geoffery Rush). As an Oscar winning actor who shined in 'Shine', this is a role that Rush can have a ball with. He plays the buffoonish owner of the Rose theatre. A man who weasels out of paying off the extortionists and always snivels with good intentions. There is the deadly serious Queen Elizabeth (Judi Dench), whom we can't take our eyes of of not because of the way she looks but by the way she speaks. If modern day school teachers were like her, the education system would get a gold star. Other actors who could have had larger and more memorable roles are Tom Wilkinson ('The Full Monty'), Rupert Everett ('My Best Friend's Wedding'), and Simon Callow ('Four Weddings and a Funeral'. He was the funeral.) Their under written parts don't take away from the rest of the film because they aren't major players but they are interesting nevertheless.

One of the producers of this film is Edward Zwick, director of 'The Siege', 'Courage Under Fire', 'Legends of the Fall', and 'Glory'. His influence over this film's production brings a smooth mix to it which gives it the fluid filming it needs to win over the majority of film audiences which I believe it will.

The film is directed by John Madden and written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard and for this movie to make its mark so well in putting aside the rigid elements of a Shakespearean play for which mainstream lovers of the arts have been known to mock and not understand it fully, this is a film for which all can enjoy and re-inventing Shakespeare by taking poetic license in a fictional account of his life is better and more acceptable than re-writing any of his work. That task would not be acceptable anywhere. One of 1998's best films and a worthy candidate for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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