There aren’t many stories of unfulfilled love that hit home the same way Shakespeare in Love does. This is a true coming of age, sensual portrait of romantic love that is unlike anything else. The film is a rollercoaster of emotions, having watched it many years ago I did not expect it to affect me as emotionally as it did on the second viewing. It is a creative and ecstatic project that transcends the way period pieces are made, just to bring in an aura of actual originality to it. Let’s take a closer look at Shakespeare in Love!
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The Movie Review
When it comes to a tale of love, what is better than the absolute classic story of Romeo and Juliet? Classic wouldn’t be the right word; it should be called ‘classical’ due to the sheer scope, Victorian sets, the incredibly gorgeous period settings, and heart-felt, melodramatic characters with lines that would melt your soul.
Shakespeare in Love takes an entirely different look at the story though, from the perspective of its creator; William Shakespeare (played exceptionally by Joseph Fiennes), and a character that shapes his outlook on life. This fictional tale inspired by both real-life historical figures and stories, along with Shakespeare’s writing itself shows him as a drunken and lustful yet exceptional romantic fool who works at the Rose Theater and writes plays.
It shows a fictional love affair between the up-and-coming playwright and the beautiful Viola de Lesseps played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The film takes place during Shakespeare’s writing of Romeo and Juliet, several characters are based on historical figures, and many of the characters, lines, and plot devices allude to Shakespeare’s plays.
I want to emphasize how the incredible performances by Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow carry this film, that both of their portrayals of extremely flawed yet deeply in love individuals are something to behold. Gwyneth Paltrow in particular won the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people with her portrayal of Viola De Lesseps. Her incredibly raw characterization of a woman who chooses to escape the confines of her own privileged life is jaw-dropping. No wonder the lady took home the Oscar at the 71st Academy Awards. Judy Dench also took an Oscar home for some reason, though I honestly didn’t find anything she did in the film too memorable.
However, the film offers so much more than just the EXTREMELY good performances. Shakespeare in Love’s highly unique screenplay has the entirety of its dialogue written and spoken in Early Modern English. This doesn’t mean that the movie cannot be understood, it has a beautiful mix of translated Shakespearean and some words in actual Early Modern English.
The screenplay created by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard showcases the brilliant mind of William Shakespeare in a completely different way than it has ever been shown before. The originality in the script comes not from the writers’ minds, but from Shakespeare’s many different plays combined into one entity.
The director John Madden is practically KNOWN for this particular film. Honestly, his direction doesn’t bring much to the table and that is the only flaw that I’ve found in the film so far, along with its cinematography. The cinematography isn’t anything special, and honestly, the film has a tendency to be too bloomy and overly lit at times. The film’s writing and the performances by far were the forces that carried this film.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Shakespeare in Love is an authentically written depiction of a period romantic relationship between an unlikely duo. The film showcases the ups and downs of a writer as he suffers through creativity and freedom, while also showing his counterpart who suffers from privilege and lack of freedom.
The film puts these two characters at the very center stage, both metaphorically and literally to give them a platform to satisfy their sexual, ambitious, and very valid urges.