SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, 1998
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench, Antony Sher, Ben Affleck
Young William Shakespeare, poet/playwright/actor, has a bit of a problem. He's sold his next play to two different theater companies, but hasn't written any of it other than the title because he has severe writer's block. Then he meets Viola who acts as his muse as he writes “Romeo & Juliet”.
Many non-writers often ask writers where they get their ideas and how they come up with the intricate stories of their books and screenplays. Answers can seldom be given other than “write what you know”. Some writers need to do extensive research for a story, others write things based on their own lives. “Shakespeare in Love” suggests that William Shakespeare did just this for the play “Romeo & Juliet”. I'm not sure if any of the events in this film are true or not (I enjoy reading Shakespearean literature, but have never been much of a History student)... but it was definitely interesting!
William Shakespeare is a young (and poor, but well known) playwright with a case of writer's block. The writer's block comes at a bad time as he's already sold the rights to his next play - “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter” - to two different theater companies. He has not even begun to write the play, but believes that a woman he's been courting will be his muse and he writes the first act using her as the lead character and changing the play's title to “Romeo and Rosaline”. He burns it once he finds that Rosaline has been cheating on him with one of Shakespeare's friends.
One of the theater company is being leaned on by the man paying the budget of the play, to put on the performance of “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter” in a matter of weeks. Having no choice, they begin holding auditions for Romeo. Shakespeare is most impressed by an actor named Thomas Kent, who is actually Viola in disguise. Viola is a rich girl who's parents have arranged for her to be married to a tactless man she has no feelings for.
At a ball, Shakespeare meets Viola and is entranced by her. Later, when he discovers that Viola and Thomas Kent are the same person, he goes to her home and the two start an affair.
A combination of story advice by Shakespeare's friend and rival playwright Christopher Marlow, and Shakespeare's love for Viola form the basis on which Shakespeare launches his play, now titled “Romeo & Juliet”. When the local officials discover that Thomas Kent is a woman, they shut down the play a few days before it's to be performed. Luckily, the other theater company agrees to let it be performed on their stage. They're missing their Romeo, but the show must go on!
“Shakespeare in Love” is a fabulous love story on par with the play formed in it's story! The immediate connection between Shakespeare and Viola is electric from the moment they first make eye contact until the final scene of the movie. Their romance feels real, their sex scenes are passionate and hot (not just because of Gweneth Paltrow's nudity) and the ways the details of their relationship become a part of “Romeo & Juliet” is sheer brilliance (the balcony scene, for instance).
The writing in this movie is clever and witty. I loved that so many details of Shakespeare's life becomes part of his play. Even bits of dialogue people say to him or about him are infamous lines from “Romeo & Juliet”. This was exciting to see happen, and I give screenwriters Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard huge kudos for this clever device. The romance of “Shakespeare in Love” might seem a bit formulaic, but it's supposed to! It is, after all, the romance that spawned “Romeo & Juliet” which most modern romantic movies are based on! Absolute genius!
The acting in this movie is fantastic. Each actor was brilliant both in their roles in the movie, and then in the roles in the play that their movie character plays. Never before have I seen “Romeo & Juliet” performed better than when they perform it in this movie. It really is a huge acting achievement in my opinion, and one I don't foresee being bested any time soon.
Everything about “Shakespeare in Love” is amazing (which explains it's 7 Oscar wins including Best Picture, best writing, best actress and supporting actress, music, and costume)! Admittedly, there was a point where I felt like it might have been running a little long, but I can forgive one glance at the clock in a 2 hour film.
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