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Shakespeare in Love
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Reviews & Ratings for
Shakespeare in Love More at IMDbPro »

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136 out of 179 people found the following review useful:

Shakespeare would be proud

Author: Ana Cristina Simon (belle7719@aol.com) from Florida
27 December 1998

I went to see this movie not knowing what to expect. On the one hand, I was excited, because you see, I am an English major and here was this movie based on the life of William Shakespeare. In the realm of Shakespeare rip-offs (i.e., "Romeo & Juliet," "Macbeth," etc..)"Shakespeare in Love" clearly stood out. This is the first film I've seen based on the author, rather than his work. And it was a refreshing change from watching the pompous over-fed Hollywood egoes trying to pass themselves off as true actors. At the same time, however, the casting had me a bit nervous. I had not seen Joseph Fiennes work, but I had high hopes since his brother is, in my opinion, a brilliant actor. I liked Gwyneth Paltrow in "Emma" and "Sliding Doors," but I was wary to see how she would pull this one off. And as for Ben Affleck.. well, I was truly afraid he would flop. I saw him in "Armageddon" and immediately racked him up on the list of other such forgettable actors as .. well never mind. The point is, I was afraid he would make a laughing-stock of this movie. As for the other actors,I did not recognize any one else except Judi Dench, and I figured hers was a bit role, nothing that could affect this movie much. I was wrong on almost all counts. Gwyneth Paltrow was so radiant in this movie, she fairly set the screen ablaze. I never knew she had such range. I had not expected such fire in her, I always thought she was a rather calm actress, incapable of such passions. Joseph Fiennes amazed me far more than his brother in that he knows how to balance wit and passion, joy and sorrow gracefully, even more so than Ralph. Together, these two actors did more than carry off the film; they raised it up to levels higher than any other actors I've seen in a very long time. Judi Dench may have had a bit role, but she managed to make a lot out of it. She played Queen Elizabeth with more majesty and grace than any other Queen-playing actress I've seen. (I've yet to see Cate Blansett in the movie "Elizabeth.")But the true darkhorse of this movie is Ben Affleck. My God, he has a sense of humor! I never imagined. "Armageddon" didn't give him much space to roam in, but in this film he was all over the place. Had he not been flanked by such worthy thespians, he just might have stolen the show. The actors could not have done such marvelous work had it not been, of course, for the writing. The play flows smoothly, with nary a glitch in sight. This is note-worthy, for it is well over 100 minutes. It is written in a style that is at once clever and grave, passionate and dry. Love is one of the most abused notions on the screen today. It is rare to see a movie portray Love with as much originality and truth as this film has accomplished. Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay this movie I already did on Christmas night, when I went to go see this film. As the movie ended and the actors' names scrolled up on the screen, tears trickled down my cheeks. I must say it is not often a movie makes me cry. And don't underestimate me just because I am a girl and because I may be more sensitive because you see, my boyfriend left the theater with suspiciously bright eyes as well..

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75 out of 98 people found the following review useful:

An excellent film in all aspects.

Author: Jupiter87
29 December 1998

I had high hopes for this film from the first time I saw the trailer. I am happy to say that the film lives up to the previews. Although it is an art house flick of sorts, it manages to be profound and accessible at the same time. So many art house films manage to be merely pretentious, as if aimed at those that want to believe that they are having an intellectual experience rather than those who are really open to one. This film shows that you can make a film of substance that is at the same time very entertaining.

One thing that stood out was the way they showed enough of the performance of Romeo and Juliet so that you could understand what the play is about, without making it a film of the play per se. There are many parallels between the fictional play and the events of the film, and this goes to underscore the relevance of great literature to the human condition. The actual performance of the play was acted so well that there were times when a character in the play was in a fight and I said to myself "they're really fighting, that guy really got stabbed!" So often a play within a movie is acted in a very staged manner, so this was a welcome surprise. And for anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare, it is easy to find little tidbits to reflect upon - such as the fact that Shakespeare himself was fond of the "play within a play" theme that we see in this film.

The performances are excellent throughout, including minor characters. In the midst of tragedy there is genuine comic relief, just as in Shakespeare. The historical details that surround the conjectural main plot are accurate down to the names of the actual people with whom Shakespeare crossed paths. In the end "Shakespeare in Love" causes us to feel as well as think, to think as well as to be entertained.

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55 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

What ever happened to "And they lived happily ever after"?

10/10
Author: Kristine (kristinedrama14@msn.com) from Chicago, Illinois
23 November 2003

Shakespeare in Love, the best picture winner of 1998, I know this film receives a lot of bashing due to that win. I believe that also Saving Private Ryan was nominated, which it was also an incredible film. To be honest, I couldn't pick between the two, because both were wonderful films and completely different genres. But anyways, back onto Shakespeare in Love. Everything about this film was perfect and I think that's why it received so many Oscar nods and wins, I mean, the costumes, the acting, the sets, the story was absolutely terrific and wonderful to watch. John Madden knew what he was doing and shot this film so beautifully. The cast also seemed to really enjoy doing this film and worked so well together. Gwyneth Paltrow won best actress for this film and she did a terrific job portraying Viola, she was so elegant and touching. The love story between her and William Shakespeare is truly a memorable one.

Viola is a first class lady who is about to be married to Lord Wessex, a man who she does not love. Her heart belongs to poetry, mainly the poetry of William Shakespeare. William has lost all hope though when his heart is broken by his girlfriend and he is writing a comedy called Romeo and Ethyl, the pirate's daughter. Since the plays are only played by an all male cast, Viola dresses up as a man and auditions for his new play. She receives the part of Romeo; later that night at a big party her father is throwing, she meets Shakespeare and it is love at first sight. When William finds out the truth that she is the boy who loves his poetry, he doesn't care, they have a passionate affair and continue on with the play as if she were a boy. But the plot thickens and Viola knows that she must go back to her life of an unwanted love and marriage.

Shakespeare in Love is without a doubt a fine film and should have a higher rating in my book. I don't understand why so many people hate this film, I thought it was extremely clever and witty. It had a beautiful love story, it was funny, it was sad; there's nothing wrong with this film, but hey, everyone's a critic, right? I highly recommend Shakespeare in Love, just trust me, if you enjoy Shakespeare and his poetry, I'm sure you'll love this film. Just give it a chance, who cares about the Oscars? They make mistakes at times, but Shakespeare in Love is a great movie and I enjoyed watching it.

10/10

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56 out of 72 people found the following review useful:

Excellent

Author: tjowen from London, England
14 February 2003

Those who are looking for a historically accurate portrayal of Shakespeare's life had better look elsewhere - but then this was never intended to be a serious look at the life of the man. Those who attack it for its' fanciful relation to history have missed the point entirely. It is a romantic comedy obsessed with nothing more than making references in storyline and plot to the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and those references are made so seamlessly it could almost be assumed that what we see on the screen actually happened to the man.

In fact the overall story we are presented with is not new. Anyone who had read or seen `Romeo and Juliet' will have a pretty shrewd idea of the path the narrative takes - the twist is that in the film, Shakespeare writes the play `Romeo and Juliet' in parallel to, and based on, his `real life' relationship with Lady Viola.

The opening sees Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) desperately trying to write the masterpiece `Romeo and Ethel, the Pirates Daughter', a comedy he hopes will rival anything by Christopher Marlow (Rupert Everett). Words fail him until his muse appears in the shape of Lady Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow), a noblewoman whose love for the work of Shakespeare's leads her to dress as a boy (since at the time women were not allowed on stage) and attend an audition in disguise (mistaken identity and women dressing as men are devices Shakespeare often used in his comedies). She is given the role of Romeo and begins a forbidden relationship with Shakespeare, the only one who knows her real identity, in spite of the fact that she is betrothed to the villainous Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) at Queen Elizabeth's (Judi Dench) command.

Fiennes portrays Shakespeare wonderfully and not as the infallible master of rhetoric. He takes the Bard from the pedestal and brings him down to a human level that we can all sympathise with. His relationship with Paltrow is handled sensitively, although many of the scenes that are exclusively their own did have enough a little too much `Chick-Flick' for my liking. Paltrow's R.P. accent is technically very good, and though I normally like my English to be played by the English, I was as happily surprised by her performance as I was by Ben Affleck's brief, but memorable portrayal of the self-important Ned Alleyn. Much of the credit, though, must go to Michelle Guish for the wonderful supporting cast including: Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Martin Clunes and Geoffrey Rush, to name but a few.

John Madden directs hypnotically and constantly keeps the camera on the move but most credit for the film must go to Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard for their cunning and often self-parodying script. The only comment I would make is regarding the sheer number of theatre references. Those who have worked in the theatre will be aware of many, if not all, of the in-jokes that the film is littered with. Those who have not may be left with the feeling that they have been excluded from much of the content.

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77 out of 119 people found the following review useful:

A Terrific Film

10/10
Author: yuckbug from Los Angeles, California
13 December 1998

I saw a preview of this movie and it was terrific. Most period movies are long, boring, usually low-concept and often as emotionally heavy as the costumes in which the actors trudge around (Elizabeth, Wings of the Dove, The Piano, Restoration, etc...)

Well this movie was different. Don't be afraid of the word Shakespeare in the title! This movie is not a junior-high history lesson. It's light, funny, romantic, and a totally irreverent look at Elizabethan England.

The screenplay is brilliant. The best writing in a movie I've seen this year. The idea is that Shakespeare is not some grave, great poet, but a young guy trying to make his way in the theatre. He's written good plays, but nothing truly transcendent. The conceit is that an ill-fated romance--the one great true love of this life--with a beautiful, smart woman is what inspires him to write his first immortal play: Romeo and Juliet.

In this era of world-exploding actioners and cookie-cutter Adam Sandler movies, it's rare to see such a specific, ingenious, and inspired story for a film.

The best part about this movie is its sense of humor. It plays with history, takes a great man abut whom we know alomost nothing, and creates a fantasy about his life that is totally outrageous, funny and real.

Also, the movie is really romantic. The costumes are lush, the leads look great and have real chemistry together. I used to think that Gwyneth was overrated, but here she's radiant. And Joe Fiennes has an intensity and a vulnerabiliy, as well as a sense of humor, that I for one find sorely lacking in his older brother Ralph.

Needless to say, this is the best date movie of the year. Women take note: I am a red-blooded straight American male, and I loved it. Take your boyfriends to see this movie. It will make up for you forcing them to sit through The Piano.

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45 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

An Abundance of Riches

Author: BB-15
20 June 1999

A romantic comedy does not get much better than Shakespeare in Love. Here is a movie that captures the feel of England 400 years ago. It is romantic yet light. It is funny but is complex enough to provide enjoyment for fans of literature.

The sets of England 400 years ago, the costumes and the character's makeup including their bad dental work were just right. You could almost smell those streets. The hero, Shakespeare, is excellently played by Joseph Fiennes. He is sympathetic but never pathetic. As for Gwyneth Paltrow, she shows her range from boyishness to radiance. This is the first film I have seen her in where I believed she could become a great actress. There is also a great supporting cast, especially Judi Dench, who all have good melodramatic and comic instincts.

The film never plods. The screenplay is rich with romance, emotion and action. The plot weaves several stories and themes. You can enjoy it as a simple love story with some action and basic suspense about producing a play or you can get much deeper into movie's complex tapestry of ideas and in jokes. But most importantly the film's mood is always light and is never overblown (unlike another recent movie about unfulfilled love, Great Expectations).

Deserving of its Oscar, this is simply a great film.

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37 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Impressive spin on Shakespeare, with a contemporary feel

Author: pooch-8 from Fargo, North Dakota
13 January 1999

Tom Stoppard, who penned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, knows a thing or two about the modern deconstruction and reconstruction of Shakespeare's work -- and it shows in the bright and vivid Shakespeare in Love, which Stoppard co-wrote with Marc Norman. Applying many of the same conventions favored by Shakespeare in his own work (including primarily the confusion over mistaken identity and gender) the screenwriters begin with the "what if" premise and run with it, speculating with wicked delight on the Bard's rivalry with Christopher Marlowe, his use of overheard phrases finding their way into his plays, and best of all, the possible sources of his inspiration. Will's muse is Violet, played wonderfully by Gwyneth Paltrow, who shows off in this film her finest acting to date and credibly pulls off the tricky task of being both an object of poetic inspiration and a genuine, down-to-earth human being.

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39 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

A Great Movie

8/10
Author: sofyarozy89 from United States
4 February 2005

When my English teacher told the class that we would be watching "Shakespeare in Love" everyone groaned, me included. We all thought it would be another boring movie, but I along with many others was pleasantly surprised. Even though the movie didn't portray the actual life of William Shakespeare, it is a very interesting interpretation of what his life might have been like. Normally I am not a big fan of Gwenyth Paltrow, but she fulfilled the role of Viola De Lesseps very well. This movie, unlike many others I have been forced to watch in school, has not been a waste of time and has informed us more about the concepts and details that could not be seen just by reading the play. Overall I think I have gained a better understanding of Romeo and Juliet by watching "Shakespeare in Love".

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45 out of 73 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful!

Author: chesirecatgrin55 from Georgia, United States
11 April 2004

In the movie Shakespeare in Love, a young and promising William Shakespeare is finding it difficult to write a new play. He feels he has lost his gift for stringing together eloquent sentences and yearns for some sort of inspiration to rid him of his horrible writer's block. William then meets the lovely and royal Viola, who is craving to be an actress. She becomes his muse, as well as the lead `actor' in his new play Romeo and Juliet, as they weave a tangled love affair. This burning passion they feel can only end with separation when Viola is forced to marry Lord Wessex and move to America. This film is a wonderful combination of romance, comedy, and drama that attempts a new perspective of the classic Romeo and Juliet story. It employs clever dialogue, beautiful scenes, and wonderful characterization to entertain the viewer. The film's Renaissance dialogue is true to its time period. With such an excellent script, William comes across as the master of speech that he really is. Some parts of the movie are purely funny as almost to parody the seriousness of Romeo and Juliet. Other parts intertwine the actual lines from the play, such as the multiple bedroom scenes between Will and Viola, to provide a unique and obvious parallel between it and the movie. When Will quotes `Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' to Viola, this provides not only a sentimental scene but actual words from Shakespeare to add to the historical content of this film. This film has an interesting twist on the tragic tale because Will becomes not just a writer pouring out the lines for pay, but a man pouring out his heart in true love. At the end of the movie, Romeo and Juliet is presented as though you were actually sitting on the dirt floor of the playhouse. You see the play through the eyes of a person in England during the late 1500's, except by this time the lead is not longer Romeo and Juliet but literarily and symbolically Will and Viola. The setting of this film is very well done, and the playhouses, taverns, and elegant houses convey the feeling of Renaissance England. The costumes, including Queen Elizabeth's glamorous dresses and Viola's body-shaping corset, are seemingly accurate. (I would have hated wearing those clothes!) The scenes between Will and Viola are rarely anything but love scenes, and they, like their counterpart scenes in Romeo and Juliet, mostly happen at night. This adds to the mystery and forbidden feeling of the movie. The characterization of this film was splendidly carried out. I could not help but fall in love with the beautiful emotion that gushed from Will and Viola ( Will is extremely good looking by the way). When the couple was separated in the end, I felt like a terrible wrong had been committed. The character of Queen Elizabeth, with her snide comments and all-knowing attitude, was a comical representation of a serious position that kept me completely entertained. Christopher Marlowe also provides a wonderful character that conveys `real person' qualities of competition between two famous playwrights. I found this film to be completely engaging from start to finish, but I would not recommend it to everyone. I believe it could truly be given the title of `chick flick' by some viewers despite its fight scenes and comedic devices. The viewer will gain a knowledge of the Renaissance period and its characteristics while also getting the feeling of knowing the great William Shakespeare, however inaccurate the description of Will may be. I feel that now I appreciate the play Romeo and Juliet with a new sense of understanding that can only come from looking at an old tale in a new light.

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24 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

How can anybody like this film?

1/10
Author: Kay-20 from London, England
5 February 1999

It seems strange to me that Shakespeare in Love has been given so much space by the critics. I found it to be a dull and uninspired movie. The casting was awful (two unpleasant and barely talented leads in one film). Gwyneth Paltrow looking more like a duck than ever, giving her whole range of head movements. As for the plot, well, where can I start. Shakespeare has run out of ideas. He falls in love with a noble-woman (cue much mistaken identity, mistaken gender, in the style of Romeo and Juliet). Through the relationship with Viola (the tepid Paltrow) Shakespeare is inspired to write, yes, you guessed it, Romeo and Juliet. The problem with Shakespeare in Love is that you can see things coming a mile off, jokes, plot, references to historical figures. The only truly funny moments that I found were those in which members of The Fast Show (hilarious British comedy) were on screen. If you feel the need to go and see this film - take a moment and consider seeing one of Shakespeare's own plays which provide all the things that Shakespeare in Love fails to. And are a lot less hackneyed.

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