365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

248. Movie reviews: “Shakespeare in Love”

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Any disappointed expectations of historical accuracy aside, there is no reason to doubt that “Shakespeare in Love” will be anything but marvelously entertaining, and it indeed delivers exactly what it says on the tin: William Shakespeare, the eminent playwright who has been beloved for centuries, when he was young and handsome (played by Joseph Fiennes, no less) and in love with a woman who becomes his muse.

The woman, played by Gwenyth Paltrow at perhaps her very prettiest, is a lady of noble breeding who disguises herself as a boy in order to perform in Shakespeare’s newest play, which turns out to be perhaps his most famous, “Romeo and Juliet”. Of course, these players have no way of knowing that the play will be the success it will, but it is their job to perform it regardless of its future status.

One thing that the film does particularly well is throw in several sly references to Shakespeare’s work – enough to feed the nerds, but not so many that those unfamiliar with the works of the Bard will feel lost. A street preacher gives Shakespeare the line “a plague a’both their houses”, his love gives him the name Viola (which is the name of the heroine of “Twelfth Night”), and a highly amusing visit to an apothecary at the beginning of the movie is one of the standout scenes. That may perhaps be owing to the use of the Royal Shakespeare Company actor Antony Sher in the role of the apothecary, one of several brilliant casting choices for smaller roles. These choices include Geoffrey Rush, Rupert Everett,  Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench, and several other fantastic surprises.

The two leads have very believable chemistry together, and every scene they share sizzles with electricity. Not only that, but both possess an impressive grip on the Shakespearean prose and poetry recited throughout, which was perhaps expected of Fiennes, but which was a pleasant surprise from Paltrow, who I have an admitted bias against the majority of the time.

“Shakespeare in Love” is a beautifully designed film, one in which the costumes (especially the dresses that Paltrow adorns herself in) will cause any theatrical costume designer to salivate. It is a cleaned-up Renaissance, a romanticized version of the time, but a nonetheless wonderful one to behold. Well-written, well-cast, and well-acted, “Shakespeare in Love” is a fun romp through some of Shakespeare’s most memorable moments and the heartache of his fictional romance.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

June 6, 2010 at 5:46 PM

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