Shakespeare In Love


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Shakespeare In Love
"The air is heavy with irony, light with laughter and alive with love."

You might be forgiven for thinking there is a new spirit abroad amongst the baggy breeches and highfalutin noblemen of traditional costume drama and that spirit's name is Excellence.

Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard's script is so clever, witty, accessible and literate, it embraces Elizabethan language without sounding profound, or ponderous. The air is heavy with irony, light with laughter and alive with love. Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is portrayed as a word hustler, stealing ideas and dialogue from everyone in sight, irresponsible, passionate and brave.

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Blocked on his new work, Romeo And Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter, young Will becomes entangled with Viola (Gwenyth Paltrow), the daughter of a rich merchant. She has joined the company at The Rose theatre, dressed as a boy, despite being betrothed to an arrogant aristocrat (Colin Firth), who intends to take her to his plantations in Virginia.

The intensity of the moment is everything to the young lovers, because there can be no future, and so Romeo And Juliet - Ethel and the pirates are ditched along the way - comes to fruition, born of anguish, desperation and not a little joy.

If you look, you can recognise burgeoning scenes and characters from the Bard's later plays, not planted as clues, but there as part of the poet's life, making the point that writers feed off what is around them.

The performances are sublime. Paltrow has reached a pinnacle of perfection, rising like a melody above Emma and Sliding Doors to an Englishness that defies her origins. Fiennes has an energy that excites and an understanding of wilful desire that is never falsely paraded.

John Madden directs with a dashing style. He was last seen enticing wondrous things from Judi Dench in Mrs Brown. She is back here, as another queen, the virginal Bess, offering a memorable miniature.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The young William Shakespeare - suffering writer's block - finds romance provides inspiration.
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Director: John Madden

Writer: Marc Norman, Tom Stoppard

Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Colin Firth, Antony Sher, Martin Clunes, Jim Carter, Judi Dench, Mark Williams, Simon Callow, Steve O'Donnell, Tim McMullen, Ben Affleck, Simon Callow

Year: 1998

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/UK


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