Shakespeare in Love (1998) (R)

"Shakespeare in Love" is a delightful comedy that takes place near the beginning of the bard's career. William Shakespeare is a writer who's struggling to finish a play called "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" before a theater owner named Henslowe gets in further debt and Will gets in more trouble. There are two theater houses in the town where Shakespeare is writing, the one that Henslowe owns and The Rose, which Richard Burbage owns.
As the debts pile on and play after play is put on at the Rose, Shakespeare decides that he needs a "muse" to get inspiration for his play. He has affairs with various women which is where he gets his ideas for his plays.
One such play is played before the Queen, a very stern yet childish Judi Dench. This is where we are introduced to Viola De Lesseps. All she wants in her life is poetry and adventure, she's a high-spirited daughter of the well to do Sir Robert De Lesseps. Her marriage is being arranged without her knowledge. This covenant will be passed with Lord Wessex, a greedy and selfish man who we have absolutely no trouble in hating.
But Viola wants to be an actress, which is forbidden (only men could act in Shakespeare's day), so she disguises herself as a boy, Thomas Kent, and auditions for "Romeo"—a play that hasn't even been written yet.
She instantly hits a gold spot with Shakespeare who decides that he/she is the only one to play the role of Romeo.
But there's a problem, she has fallen in love with the poet and on a chance meeting, him with her. She can't reveal her alter-ego to him and yet can't meet with him because of the ever looming Lord Wessex.
Hemslowe is in trouble with his debtors and hires a horribly ragamuffin group of "actors" as the cast to the unwritten play.
But then, love and other complications happen.
"Shakespeare in Love" is one of the best romantic comedies ever made because of its razor sharp and keenly witted script, penned by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. If you know Shakespeare you get more of the puns and the jokes but even if you don't, the movie stands on its own.
The cast is unrivaled: Joseph Fiennes plays Shakespeare and invents his own version of the famed man, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Viola and its a wonderful performance that brought her home an Oscar, Judi Dench's version of Queen Elizabeth won her an Oscar (one of the shortest performances to do so), Geoffrey Rush plays the eccentric Henslowe, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson, Colin Firth, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, and Rupert Everett also join the cast.
The chemistry between Fiennes and Paltrow is just so sensational...beyond compare even.
The film itself won seven Oscars and took the Best Picture category away from "Saving Private Ryan"...which has thus made it a very hated movie. Having recently seen "Saving" I can attest that "Shakespeare in Love" is a far better picture. It doesn't rely on cliches and sentimentalities to try to make the viewer cry, it's a much quicker and smarter picture. Not that "Saving" doesn't have its merits, its just a clunkier, clumsier movie.
The cast won a Screen Actors Guild award which was justly given, they all give fantastic performances.
"Shakespeare in Love" may not be the best movie ever made or the deepest movie, it certainly isn't that haunting; but like "Annie Hall" it's hilarious, entertaining, and loads of fun.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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