Shakespeare in Love
Film Review

by Jan E. Morris

While it seems nearly everyone you meet in Los Angeles is writing a screenplay, only a handful of those writers will ever earn a penny from their work. Of the few hundred scripts circulating the studios and artist agencies at any given moment, most are purchased for concept and re-written dozens of times before they are translated to film. Those who make a profession of writing film reviews often focus on the failure of the script to bring the story to life. Even the blockbuster action films, whose special effects drew the world to the box office in the early nineties, suspect that increasingly brilliant effects won't be enough to fill the movie malls of the 21st Century.

When a script such as Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard's Shakespeare in Love comes to life, any review seems pathetically inadequate. With sheer brilliance Norman captures the imagery of life in the 1590's and speculates on Shakespeare's inspiration to write Romeo and Juliet. Norman's work coupled with Stoppard's ability to bring the romance of Elizabethan theatre, and theater in general, into an environment where mainstream movie lovers can absorb Shakespearean prose and witness the magic of theater behind-the-scenes, should be experienced on the big screen in a theater filled beyond capacity.

Of course in the rare moment when a script like this comes along (and producer Edward Zwick is credited for seizing the moment), the question of finding actors and filmmakers to bring the roles to life is quite another story. Let's see, who can we get who has worked Shakespeare and can lure the average moviegoer into the theater and then cajole them to sit still long enough to discover how great he was? Oh yea, and the two lead actors have to possess both romantic chemistry and comedic abilities. Director John Madden's attention to selecting actors with the ability to bring vibrant life to these characters is no less brilliant than the screenplay itself. Gwyneth Paltrow breaks out of any previous perceptions of an already noteworthy career and is exquisitely luminous as Viola De Lesseps. Joseph Fiennes becomes Will Shakespeare, leaving an impression imprinted as immortally as Charlton Heston's Moses. The supporting cast is just as relevant to the film's endearment: Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth and Geoffrey Rush as Henslowe, deliver some of the most insightfully funny lines ever written, and with perfect timing. Even dead-pan, if brief, appearances of Rupert Everett as Christopher Marlowe and Ben Affleck as Ned Alleyn add relevance to the mayhem.

Just exactly how did so many people with so much talent find each other to make Shakespeare so much fun ?

I don't know. It's a mystery. 


 "A script like this comes along once in a lifetime," says John Madden. "I never expected to find something that I would feel so strongly about. I've spent my life around Shakespeare - I've acted in it, directed it, I've studied it and I've even taught Shakespeare at university - and to find a script that actually gets behind it all and is so incredibly funny and fresh and brilliantly imagined is just wonderful. I am very proud of this film. We all are."


MRQE - Movie Review Query Engine

Yahoo watch- Shakespeare in Love

back to Shakespeare in Love