Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Directed by John Madden
Starring: Gweneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench
The Best Picture Oscar, in 1999, went to this witty romantic film directed by John Madden (The Debt). The movie stars big names including Judi Dench (J. Edgar), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Joseph Fiennes (Elizabeth), and Gweneth Paltrow (Contagion). The movie did incredibly well with the critics taking home an additional six Academy Awards, including statues for Dench (Actress in a Supporting Role) and Paltrow (Actress in a Leading Role).
When a young Shakespeare (Fiennes) begins to run out of ideas and money he’s open to anything that might get him back on track. As he searches for his muse he’s also got to tackle his money troubles. All of this seems to be solved when he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps (Paltrow). She’s a high-class woman who wants nothing more than to be on stage as an actress, something forbidden by the Queen (Dench). Soon she takes to a disguise to earn a part in the play. When Shakespeare sees through her disguise they begin a passionate affair that inspires him to write his greatest play.
I didn’t think I would like this movie when I first came across it. My love of Shakespeare is the reason why I chose to watch it. (Not to mention the quest I’ve started to see all of the Best Picture winning films.) This time around I was really happy I took the time to watch a movie that held no interest for me. This movie is an all-around good film. The acting, costumes, dialogue and the rest all come together nicely and leave little to be asked for.
The cast includes a number of big names. Dench and Rush are two of my favorites. Paltrow and Fiennes are also great talents and did a wonderful job with this movie. This movie called on the two of them to play a broad range of emotions throughout a movie that runs from comedy to drama to romance. Fiennes does a wonderful job as the conflicted and ambitious writer. Paltrow is especially good in her role as the real-life Juliet. In addition to the main stars of the film, the movie also features some other big names including Ben Affleck (The Town), Tom Wilkinson (The Debt), and Colin Firth (A Single Man).
The sets and costumes are also really good. I felt like they took the era and made it come alive without pushing too far into the stereotypes I expected them to. The end result is a movie that doesn’t distract from the real point of the story.
My one criticism with this movie is the sometimes melodramatic moments that occur with less important characters in the story. This doesn’t really hurt the overall movie, but some scenes seem a bit overdone. Not a big deal when you consider the strengths of the film.
I would recommend this one for anyone who likes romance, the true backbone of the film. This is also a good pick for anyone who likes Shakespeare since the fictional account of the making of Romeo and Juliet is really fun to see. I give this one 4.3 out of 5 stars.