Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Steven O'Donnell
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 123 minutes
One of the most endearing and intelligent romantic comedies of the '90s, the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love is filled with such good will, sunny romance, snappy one-liners, and devilish cleverness that it's absolutely irresistible. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, at its outset the film tracks young Will Shakespeare's overwrought battle with writer's block and the efforts of theater owner Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush, in rare form) to stage Will's latest comedy, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Jokey comedy, though, soon takes a backseat to ravishing romance when the beautiful Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) disguises herself as a young man to wangle herself an audition in the all-male cast, and wins both the part of Romeo and, after much misunderstanding, the playwright's heart. Soon enough, Will's pirate comedy becomes the beautiful, tragic Romeo and Juliet, reflecting the agony and ecstasy of Will and Viola's romance--he's married and she's set to marry the slimy Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) in the near future. The way that Oscar-winning screenwriters Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard enfold their story within the parameters of Romeo and Juliet (and even Twelfth Night) is nothing short of brilliant--it would take a Shakespearean scholar to dissect the innumerable parallels, oft-quoted lines, plot developments, and thematic borrowings. And most amazingly, Norman and Stoppard haven't forgotten to entertain their audience in addition to riding a Shakespearean roller coaster, with director John Madden (Mrs. Brown) reigning in his huge ensemble with rollicking energy. Along the way there are small gems to be found, including Judi Dench's eight-minute, Oscar-winning turn as a truly regal Queen Elizabeth, but the key element of Shakespeare in Love's success rests on the milky-white shoulders of its two stars. Fiennes, inexplicably overlooked at Oscar time, is a dashing, heartfelt Will, and as for Best Actress winner Paltrow, well, nothing she'd done before could have prepared viewers for how amazing she is here. Breathtakingly beautiful, fiercely intelligent, strong-willed, and lovestruck--it's a performance worthy of Shakespeare in more ways than one. By the film's end, you'll be thoroughly won over--and brushing up your Shakespeare with newfound ardor. --Mark Englehart
Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
So what do we do?
Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
I don't know. It's a mystery.
The Master of the Revels despises us all for vagrants and peddlers of bombast. But my father, James Burbage, had the first license to make a company of players from Her Majesty, and he drew from poets the literature of the age. We must show them that we are men of parts. Will Shakespeare has a play. I have a theatre. The Curtain is yours.
Viola De Lesseps:
The same, alas.
Viola De Lesseps:
Oh, but why "alas"?
A lowly player.
Viola De Lesseps:
Alas indeed, for I thought you the highest poet of my esteem and writer of plays that capture my heart.
Oh - I am him too!
My story starts at sea... a perilous voyage to an unknown land... a shipwreck... the wild waters roar and heave... the brave vessel is dashed all to pieces, and all the helpless souls within her drowned... all save one... a lady... whose soul is greater than the ocean... and her spirit stronger than the sea's embrace... not for her a watery end, but a new life beginning on a stranger shore. It will be a love story... for she will be my heroine for all time. And her name... Viola.