Saturday, February 23, 2019

Movie Review: "Shakespeare in Love" (1998)

Shakespeare in Love 1998 movie poster
Image Source
Director: John Madden
Year: 1998
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

While struggling with writer's block, William Shakespeare finds the inspiration to write one of the most famous romantic tragedies in his own relationship with a star-crossed lover, a wellborn woman who is arranged to marry a nobleman.

Shakespeare in Love 1998 movie Gwyneth Paltrow
"That woman is a woman!" (Image Source)
Look up articles, lists, forums, and interviews about the most controversial Best Picture winners and "Shakespeare in Love" is sure to be towards the top of any conversation. It isn't controversial because it is offensive or was marred by scandal (outside of how much he-who-shall-not-be-named spent in time and effort and money on its campaign), but because it is a good-but-corny rom-com that beat out Steven Spielberg's WWII epic "Saving Private Ryan." We aren't quite as in love with "Saving Private Ryan" as most people, in fact, we are more partial to "Life is Beautiful" (DON'T @ US), but regardless of your preference, someone was bound to have their feelings hurt. 1999 was one of the least diversely themed years for its Best Picture nominees. Of the five films up for the top prize, three were set during WWII, and two were period pieces featuring Queen Elizabeth. Did nothing else come out that year? Director John Madden's "Shakespeare in Love," tells the story of a young William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes), who is suffering from writer's block. He believes the words will come once he finds his muse. He finds that muse in a wellborn theater lover named Viola De Lesseps (Gwenyth Paltrow). Will is supposed to be writing a comedy, but because Viola is arranged to be married to a nobleman named Lord Wessex (Colin Firth), Shakespeare's story starts to lean towards tragedy, though it may wind up being his best play ever.
Shakespeare in Love 1998 Judi Dench
"Playhouses are not for wellborn ladies." (Image Source)
Despite all the hate it receives, "Shakespeare in Love" is not a bad movie. In fact, it's actually a pretty good movie, but we think we can all agree that it just didn't deserve Best Picture. It is a fun romantic comedy that takes a fictionalized look at real historical characters. Some viewers will hate this style of "alternate history," but we think it provides an interesting take on how "Romeo and Juliet" was conceived. There is a lot of sharp dialogue that offers up some funny and emotional moments. There are many great performances from the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, and shockingly enough, even Ben Affleck, as well as Gwenyth Paltrow and Judi Dench, who both took home Oscars for their work on this film. Dench may not have a lot of screen time, but she makes an impact every time she appears on-screen and probably offers the single best performance in the film. One thing that is undeniable about this movie is how gorgeous it is to look at. The costumes are fabulous, and the art direction and sets are stunningly intricate and lavish.
Shakespeare in Love 1998 Joseph Fiennes
"I will have poetry in my life, and adventure, and love above all." (Image Source)
In our minds, "Shakespeare in Love" may not be the best movie ever (hell, it's not even the best movie of 1998 because that film didn't even get nominated [that would be "The Big Lebowski"]), but it is still enjoyable, and overall, we think it is a very entertaining feature. It wound up being nominated for 13 Oscars and took home seven trophies, including Best Picture.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
RT Rating: 92%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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