Shakespeare in Love (1998) Poster

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Shakespeare would be proud
Faery27 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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10/10
What ever happened to "And they lived happily ever after"?
Kristine23 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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Excellent
tjowen14 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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An excellent film in all aspects.
vspa8729 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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An Abundance of Riches
BB-1520 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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Impressive spin on Shakespeare, with a contemporary feel
pooch-813 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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10/10
A Terrific Film
yuckbug13 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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8/10
A Great Movie
sofyarozy894 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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Wonderful!
chesirecatgrin5511 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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1/10
'Shakespeare (rolling) in His Grave' a better title for this movie.
Daniel P10 February 1999
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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1/10
I guess the Razzie winners and Oscar winners got mixed up
Dantès16 April 1999
WHAT WAS THIS FILM EVEN DOING AT THE Oscars?!?

If ever there was a film that didn't deserve any accolades, this is it. Possibly the most trite, predictable script to come out of the Hollywood cookie-cutter this year, and Hollywood once again displays its vapidity and lauds it. Ridiculous.

Maybe even worse than the Best Picture travesty, was the Best Actress Oscar for Gwyneth Paltrow. I didn't think that the criteria for Best Actress was smiling demurely and showing off your breasts a lot. Sadly enough, that's what it appears to have become. Cate Blanchett deserved the Oscar so much more, as least to anyone to half a brain. However, you don't see her chest in the movie, so no Oscar. Disgusting.

Tom Stoppard must have had a serious off day when he wrote this. I can't believe this is the same guy who wrote "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead". I only hope that it was a joke, or maybe he lost a bet. Depressing.

Worst movie of the year? Maybe not, but definitely a contender, and by far the most overrated movie of the decade.
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1/10
What were they thinking?
wind-711 August 1999
Every year the Academy gets worse taste. The movie was laughably boring, with no redeeming qualities. Entire family sat around laughing at it. Do not see why people said that it brought back the magic to Hollywood, when it was a story that anyone with a basic knowledge of Shakespeare could have written.
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1/10
How can anybody like this film?
Kay-205 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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10/10
I love this film!
danca-14 November 2005
I love this film. It is cleverly written to include characters and events that we've read about in boring theatre history books for eons, but are now presented as living, lusty, real people. It gives us comic, romantic, sad, and hopeful moments all at the same time. The performances by all of the actors are top notch. Geoffrey Rush, Ralph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ben Affleck are superb. The supporting cast is equally excellent. Not to be missed is the performance by Judie Dench as Queen Elizabeth l. Her time on film is short, but her impact on the film is enormous. Bits and pieces of Shakespeare's work are evident throughout, and the tie ins to Christopher Marlowe are inspired! Costumes, makeup, scenery, lighting, and sound - all the technical and design elements are incredibly well researched and well executed. This film gives us a wonderful look at life in the Elizabethan period, not just the life of those involved in the theatre. From the ink stained hands of Shakespeare to the contents of countless toss pots hurled out of upper floor windows, we feel the grime and grit endured by Londoners during the 16th century.
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2/10
The most overrated film of the year.
e-jane12 May 1999
It's hard not to enjoy Shakespeare in Love. It's witty, clever and beautifully shot. The performances - except for Gwyneth Paltrow, who should definitely stick to the present tense - are solid (though not Oscar-worthy, as one has to applaud Judi Dench for admitting.)

But that's just about all there is to this pleasant piece of fluff. It lacks any real substance, and for all the nods to Shakespeare and the smoldering stares, is basically your average, contrived love story. It has none of the depth that made The Truman Show and Elizabeth so outstanding.

An enjoyable, cute, picture? Certainly. The best of the year? Definitely not.
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1/10
Awfully boring
Ed-9018 January 1999
I'm amazed that this film got such rave reviews. To me it was one of the most boring soap operas possible. Yes, if you like looking at handsome young guys, they're there. But the dialogue, the accents, the music was terrible. Ridiculous to hear Elizabeth I, the most powerful person in England in the 1580's, commiserate with women "Yes, I know how difficult it is to make it in a man's world" Sigh. Tough being the most powerful person in the world. Don't waste your money. Watch "Santa Barbara" or "Secret Storm" and set it back 400 years.
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1/10
See it at your own risk
zio ugo28 January 1999
Go get a cup of coffee, a beer, or a glass or wine. Go out for dinner, or stay home and dedicate to the ancient art of onan. Wash the car, do your taxes. Anything is better than going to see this incoherent drivel.

The film is just not funny. The idea of Shakespeare in a writing slump might have been good, but the forced insertion of the romance element is just concocted to extract some easy sighs from the viewer. How many of them were due to the movie, and how many to the thought of the $8 gone forever, I cannot say. The romance is as deja vu as it gets, the jokes are trite. The material would have been enough for a 20 minutes Monty Python sketch (with oh-so-more hilarious results), not for a full length feature film.

If you want to see a witty film of Shakesperean ambience, go rent the delicious Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard.

Joseph Fiennes wears the same expression for the whole movie, and almost manages to make you think that Roger Moore was not so bad after all. Ben Affleck (Ben, how could you go from "chasing amy to this?) acts as if he didn't really know where he is. Geoffrey Rush is confirming once more how Hollywood money can ruin a once brilliant actor.
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6/10
I don't understand...
dangerhorse2 September 1999
This movie was a surprise (to me) Oscar contender, many people I know gave it good reviews, and the concept seemed ingenious and entertaining.

I finally saw it recently (July 1999) and I do not understand it's popularity. It is an interesting concept for a movie, but the execution was flat and uninteresting to me. I forced myself to watch through to the end, which was, thankfully, not typical Hollywood, but was still not enough to have made it an interesting viewing experience.

Take the hype with a grain of salt. You may enjoy it, as many people did, but if you don't...don't feel alone.
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10/10
Love is the greatest inspiration
Edd-N-Furter20 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
What inspired William Shakespeare to create his most famous work: Romeo and Juliet? Probably we'll never know with complete certainty. Through years, people have imagined what was the creative process behind it and one of the most intriguing ideas is what if Shakespeare had a muse that helped him to write the most famous and tragic love story ever told. Based on this premise, acclaimed playwrights Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard play a little with historical facts to give us their own version of the story behind Romeo and Juliet.

London, 1593. Young Shakespeare is suffering a severe case of writer's block and he can't write anything. These are bad news for Phillip Henslowe, owner of The Rose (one of the most important playhouses of London at that time), who's in desperate need of a new play in order to pay his debts. In other part of the city, Lady Viola De Lesseps, daughter of a rich merchant is eager to be part of an acting company, even though women were not allowed to be on stage and let alone become actors. What they don't know is that destiny has a surprise for both of them: she will become his muse and inspires him to write again and he gives her a long-awaited opportunity by being part of the new play (although cheating a little since she has to dress herself as a man). But things won't be so easy for Viola, because she has been promised in marriage to Lord Wessex and she'll have to leave Will.

The screenplay offers us a completely different and fresh approach to Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period by choosing to explore a very risky field: the romantic comedy and the result could have been horrifying. Fortunately that never happens and instead we get a wonderfully charming and clever meditation about love as the greatest inspiration we'll ever find in life.

Also the acting is a pretty important element for the movie's success: all the actors deliver delightful performances, from Geoffrey Rush as Henslowe, Judi Dench (Oscar winner for this performance) as a complete scene-stealer Queen Elizabeth, Joseph Fiennes who gives Shakespeare a charisma that make people wonder if the real Shakespeare could have had and Gwyneth Paltrow, in her Oscar-winning performance as Viola, who assumes the risk of playing not one, but four characters and makes it in a wonderful way.

The production values, such as Sandy Powell's magnificent costume design, Stephen Warbeck's beautiful score also give the movie the necessary credibility and immerse the audience into a possibly not 100% historically accurate, but undeniably fantastic experience that makes us believe inspiration is possible to find.
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5/10
Predictability kills
vitachiel24 August 2009
Greatly overrated minorpiece that deals with a fictitious tale about Shakespeare falling in love with one of his contemporary fans.

Here's what's wrong with it:

Story: basically it's quite a nice story with some interesting plot lines. Unfortunately, the director decided not to make it too difficult for his intended big audience, so predictability kills surprise in almost every scene. No character twists either, everyone stays safely inside their dictated personage. I had the futile hope that Juliette would really stab herself to death with the dagger in the last scene of the play, but alas.

Casting: the biggest flaw of the film. I understand the fact that American actors are hired to play Britons, I guess you just can't do without some Hollywood celebs in such a venture. But Gwyneth Paltrow? Joseph Fiennes?? Ben Affleck??? OK, Fiennes is British, but has absolutely no charisma and must have been used just for his good looks. Firth and Dench are quite alright but have only minor parts.

Humor: I get sick of this kind of childish, predictable, unwitty and totally unfunny humor. I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

All in all a very mediocre film, despite the fact that it was the big winner at the Oscars (which is a big farce anyhow).
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3/10
Absurd untruths, the poor Bard may be spinning in his grave
roghache10 April 2006
First, I'll admit to not being a fan of sheer fictional tales about famous historical figures, who aren't around to defend themselves. Poor Shakespeare may well be spinning in his grave. True, there's free speech, but just because he's the foremost bard of the English language does not give Hollywood the moral right to fabricate whatever drivel desired in order to entertain an audience and make a buck. Were the literary historians not outraged at the time? They should have been. It's difficult to believe this absurdity won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

This film concocts a purely fictional story wherein Shakespeare experiences writer's block while working on his new play 'Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter'. Meanwhile, the wealthy Viola, who's a fan of Shakespeare's plays and is engaged to marry the (quite predictably cold hearted) Lord Wessex, has always dreamed of becoming an actress herself. As acting is unacceptable in that era for a woman, she disguises herself as a boy to audition for the part of Romeo on stage. Thus begins a romance between the Bard and Viola, who is his inspiration for the immortal play we now know as Romeo and Juliet.

First of all, it's not exactly an original concept, the poor oppressed woman who's downtrodden because of her gender and not free to assume her desired profession, in this case acting. Rather an overworked theme. (I'm a woman, by the way). Gwyneth Paltrow is a lovely young actress, so it's nothing personal. Also, there are wonderful Oscar winning costumes. Really, however, this movie is basically a bedroom frolic about Will. I notice a few are claiming that a more appropriate title might be Shakespeare in Lust.

It really isn't right to concoct these fictitious tales, and for those who found it amusing & romantic...well, your entertainment was at the expense of an actual human being nearly four centuries deceased. He may or may not have appreciated it, but is not around to express his views. For those who claim that Shakespeare would be proud, I question these supernatural powers of discerning the attitudes of the long deceased. Instead of wasting time on this foolish movie, it might be better spent reading or viewing one of Shakespeare's plays on stage, or watching Franco Zeffirelli's beautiful 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

My son (now a college freshman) was shown this silly Shakespeare in Love during an enriched high school English class a couple of years ago. He could never quite fathom what possible educational purpose this nonsense was intended to serve. Perhaps, as one reviewer suggested, the purpose of this film was to inform the modern world that Shakespeare had sex. Or if it's intended as an irreverent view of Elizabethan England, as some claim, we could well have managed without.

My favourite of all the comments read is that this movie has nothing whatsoever to do with Shakespeare other than to steal his good name. And sorry, I guess I'm just not one of those who can get much of a laugh out of the title 'Romeo and Ethel the Pirates's Daughter'. I find it quite a pathetic and juvenile attempt at humour, most definitely not Oscar caliber.
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2/10
Pseudo-literate rubbish
jrnewton200128 December 2001
This film is aimed squarely at people who like to pat themselves on the back for supposedly being educated and well-read. If you think that the idea that the original title of Romeo and Juliet was "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate" is a clever joke, then this movie is for you. If you pride yourself on recognizing literary references/inside "jokes" in a movie, this is for you. Others beware.
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3/10
no substance
preposterous19 January 2002
Geoffrey Rush should have played the part, instead of a supporting role. He clearly has the bearing and the depth to bring the fractured soul and eagle-like genius of Shakespeare to the stage. Not that boy, the tall thin handsome one. They coughed up the truth. But this was just the beginning.

This play serves as the ultimate turn-off for potential Shakespeare fans and established ones alike. Skeptical neophytes often dismiss Shakespeare, assuming that fans are merely drawn to Elizabethan pronouns, accents, and costumes. Their prejudice will be confirmed by this picture, if they assume this is a reflection of the real thing.

The language is uninspired, even by Hollywood's standards. Bugs Bunny does a better job of twisting a line. The hallmarks of Shakespeare's writing go missing here.

I wonder - how many people were tempted to read a Shakespeare play who never had, based on a viewing of this movie? Mozart got a better 'shake' with Amadeus, a movie which generated enthusiasm for his music. Amadeus patronized banality, but never sunk below.

Terrible music also.

I give this movie a 3, in honor of the costumes and staging.
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2/10
For never was there a story of more woe than this of Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow..
tml_pohlak_1312 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Shakespeare in Love purports to be a comedy about Shakespeare suddenly inspired by a love interest (with Paltrow), and the words begin to flow like never before. Watching it, I found it far from funny. Everything that occurs in it is predictable and cliché, and not particularly endearing. It pokes fun at the clergy by having a clergyman protest against the theatre and its morality. Then, the screenwriters decide it will be great fun if the same clergyman reacts enthusiastically at a performance. It does not emerge as such. I'm quite surprised that Tom Stoppard, a fantastic playwright, has his name attached to this.

Shakespeare in Love starts promisingly: a hilarious presentation by a debtor to those he owes money to of an early storyline of Romeo and Juliet. Soon after, however, the constant references to Shakespeare's oeuvre become stiff and un-amusing. For instance, a clergyman yells "a plague o' both their houses!" referring to two rival theatres, which becomes a line in Romeo and Juliet. Not too bad? Well consider the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet being inspired by a similar encounter between Will and Gwyneth (alas, foiled by the Nurse, whose persistent calling for Juliet also makes it into the scene). Comic relief is soon provided in limited, spaced-out bursts (between the numerous sex scenes of course).

Perhaps my negative view of Shakespeare in Love is influenced by a vendetta I have against it. The film did not deserve 1999's Best Picture award, which should have gone to either Saving Private Ryan, Life is Beautiful, or The Thin Red Line. It practically swept the Oscars with 7 wins, which often it did not deserve. Gwyneth Paltrow won the Best Actress award. Apparently, perpetually flashing fleeting smiles and flaunting one's breasts (literally— her breasts are probably shown about 13 times) are Best Actress qualifications. Judi Dench won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress— for about 10 minutes of screen time, where she does what the Queen does best (i.e. save the day), but without making the performance particularly memorable or endearing.

And now for the redeeming qualities: Shakespeare in Love undoubtedly had some fine music. The music was purely opulent and made many of the scenes "watch-able". The film's strongest scene would have to be when someone (whose name I completely forget, but at the same time, couldn't care less) goes into the theatre where a rehearsal is taking place and a duel ensues with Shakespeare. Comically, musically, dramatically, and directorially, it is the film's most solid scene, and I briefly had hopes (which were mercilessly dashed) that the film might become good.

And now for some acting criticism: Joseph Fiennes is one of the most amateur actors I have ever had to endure watching— one of the poorest choices available for Shakespeare. Paltrow was bad enough where fleeting smiles were concerned— Fiennes makes her look like a genius. Ben Affleck plays… well, an Elizabethan Ben Affleck.

The Verdict: A mediocre film at best, Shakespeare in Love was over-hyped, and definitely did not deserve all those Oscars it grabbed. Its Best Picture win is a direct slap in the face to two of the greatest masterpieces ever made (and The Thin Red Line, which should'vie won SOMETHING that year— it's a very good movie!). Cliché, stale, and uninteresting, I swear I thought my brains melted about 40 minutes into the movie. An agonizing experience for the most part. Geoffrey Rush is the best part of the movie.

Overall Rating: 2/10
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