Will Shakespeare is a known but struggling poet, playwright and actor who not only has sold his next play to both Philip Henslow and Richard Burbidge but now faces a far more difficult problem: he is bereft of ideas and has yet to begin writing. He is in search of his muse, the woman who will inspire him but all attempts fail him until he meets the beautiful Viola de Lesseps. She loves the theatre and would like nothing more than to take to the stage but is forbidden from doing so as only men can be actors. She is also a great admirer of Shakespeare's works. Dressing as a man and going by the name of Thomas Kent, she auditions and is ideal for a part in his next play. Shakespeare soon sees through her disguise and they begin a love affair, one they know cannot end happily for them as he is already married and she has been promised to the dour Lord Wessex. As the company rehearses his new play, Will and Viola's love is transferred to the written page leading to the masterpiece that is ... Written by
William Shakespeare is shown playing Romeo in "Romeo & Juliet". Although no such claim appears in most biographies of Shakespeare, he is believed to have originated other famous roles in his own plays, such as The Ghost in "Hamlet," Old Adam in "As You Like It," and Lord Berowne in "Love's Labours Lost." See more »
William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is generally thought to have been performed for the first time in 1595 or 1596. Shakespeare in Love has it performed in 1593, but this is part of the "secret history" which the film is "discovering". See more »
'Shakespeare (rolling) in His Grave' a better title for this movie.
We all know the Oscars are simply about Hollywood patting themselves on the back, and nowhere is this more evident with the 13 nominations received by Shakespeare in Love.' Very little originality, horrible casting for a lead part and a well-planned ruse to pass this studio pic as an art film are simply some of the factors against this movie.
The story (if we can call it that) is no more than a simple collection of lines from the Bard's plays, blended together into a weak two-hour script. Adding pieces of Shakespeare's life into the mix, they pretend to explain the origin of famous lines and stories surrounding him, such as Shakespeare's relationship with Thomas Kent, who in truth was a man (it was widely accepted that William Shakespeare was bisexual). While the movie has no basis in reality, even as a work of fiction it fails miserably.
Gwyneth Paltrow gives an unimpressing and incredibly boring performance, looking like a Cate Blanchet wannabe, pretending to sound like Emma Thompson or Kate Winslet in her role as Viola, and like Kenneth Branagh when impersonating Thomas Kent. It's understandable, considering Thompson and Branagh have defined modern Shakespearean cinema, but her performance ends up being a weak attempt at emulating the masters of the genre. Every time she appears on-screen, she simply destroys the atmosphere of Elizabethan England (an atmosphere that is thin to begin with); she is simply out of place. So was Ben Affleck, but at least he didn't talk that much.
There are a few shinning stars in the pic, though. Joseph Fiennes and Geoffrey Rush give amazing performances given the weak script they had to work with, dashing the movie with a dose of comedy and great acting that carries the story at times, but not for 2 hours.
Shakespeare in Love' is okay as a mass-market date movie, a pic for those that have no idea what Shakespeare's plays are all about, a pic for the Teeny-Bopper crowd, but not as an Oscar Nominated Film. On the contrary, it is a perfect example why Hollywood should stick to doing Hollywood and leave the realm of art films for those with the correct vision to bring them to life. If it's Elizabethan cinema you are after, go see Elizabeth' (you'll get great performances by Joseph Fiennes and Geoffrey Rush, too!). If it's a date movie you're after, see She's All That;' at least it doesn't pretend to be what it is not.
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