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USA 1998
Directed by
John Madden
123 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Shakespeare In Love

Impressively-scripted by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard (they won a Best Original Writing Oscar) and rippling with wit and vivacity, Shakespeare In Love is a romantic comedy that not only cleverly transposes a modern genre formula to Elizabethan times but effectively weaves the on-stage and off-stage, art-imitates-life aspects of its fictional story about the origins of the Bard's 'Romeo and Juliet'.  The result is a film that makes Shakespeare's play seem much more accessible to an audience who, after seeing this, would probably consider going to see it performed live.

The film was rewarded with seven Oscars including Best Picture although, understandably enough because Madden's direction whilst skilful is unremarkable, the Best Director Oscar went to Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan). Less comprehensible is the fact that that Gwyneth Paltrow won a Best Actress Oscar for seemingly doing little more than dressing up as a boy and looking cute. On the other hand Judi Dench who plays Queen Elizabeth I impresses even though her Best Supporting Oscar was for a total screen time of only eight minutes (in some kind of irony Paltrow pipped Cate Blanchett for the Best Actress Oscar even though the latter's performance as Her Maj in Elizabeth was vastly superior.

Awards aside, the entire cast is game even if Joseph Fiennes makes an unlikely Shakespeare with Geoffrey Rush as a cash-strapped theatrical manager, Tom Wilkinson as a stage financier and Colin Firth as the calculating popinjay, Lord Wessex all amusing. The production and costume design are  excellent and the whole thing amounts to a film that is a lot of fun. 




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