A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Shakespeare in Love

March 28, 2011

Shakespeare in Love

This movie never fails to amaze me. I’m no Shakespearean scholar, but I like to believe I’m pretty familiar with the works of the Bard, and this is a movie aimed directly at people like me. It’s a touching, funny, great homage to Shakespeare that uses his words and references to his works to bring the story to life.

This is a giddy fantasy set during the early days of Shakespeare’s career in London. What’s great about this as a concept is that Shakespeare is just a regular working slob (albeit a dashingly handsome one with a way for words.) He gets no respect from the vast majority of the people around him, which is refreshing if you’ve been exposed to some of the Shakespeare worship that exists nowadays (and even within the confines of this blog.) About the only person who seems to believe in him is a young noblewoman who loves the theater and dreams of being an actor. So when he is casting for his new play “Romeo and Ethyl the Pirate’s Daughter” she dresses as a young man to audition for him.

What follows is a timeless romance, and a hilarious romp, that works in references to Shakespeare’s most famous works and common themes from his plays. There’s cross dressing, mistaken identity, vengeance and remorse, sword fights, planned marriage, and plenty of wonderful Shakespearean dialog. Above and beyond all that though it is a movie about the theater. About the magic that transforms the chaos, clashing egos, financial hardship and rivalry behind the scenes into something special that can reach right out and touch an audience. Somehow everything works out, but how? It’s a mystery.

Every single second of this movie is a delight. The cast is wondrous and perfect. Geoffrey Rush as the set upon owner of The Rose theater and patron of Shakespeare? Hilarious! Gwyneth Paltrow delivers absolutely the most stunning performance of her career as Viola, the young noblewoman who steals Will’s heart as she follows her dream of being an actor. (It is to be noted that she does some of the most convincing male drag I have ever seen when Viola dresses as young Master Kemp. Usually I wonder how people could be so dense as to believe that a woman is a man, but here Gwyneth is all earnest boyish energy when in her Kemp disguise.) Joseph Fiennes is dreamy as Shakespeare himself. Judi Dench is unforgettable in her Oscar-winning turn as the regis-ex-machina Queen Elizabeth who knows all and effortlessly rules the film. This is probably the only movie I have ever actually liked Ben Affleck in. They’re all surrounded by wonderful talent from Colin Firth to Imelda Staunton to Rupert Everett.

The script is full of genius. Not just Shakespeare’s genius, but the genius of Marc Norman for creating the concept and Tom Stoppard for fleshing it out. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this and I still notice new things each time I watch it. (This time through it was a reference to Hamlet that popped out at me when Shakespeare visits a doctor to complain that he cannot write and says that the problem is “words, words, words!”) This is one of those screenplays where every single line works on multiple levels to move the plot forward while at the same time being entertaining on its own. You could probably enjoy this as just a historical romance/comedy about the theater even without much knowledge of Shakespeare. Though knowledge of Shakespeare definitely enhances the experience.

After watching this tonight I didn’t want it to end. As always. I wanted to put in the 1968 Romeo and Juliet again. Or the 1996 Twelfth Night. I wanted to immerse myself in the words of Shakespeare and never come out. As always this movie left me drained and delighted. It’s a movie that elicits a strong emotional response from me. It’s a movie I’m deeply in love with.

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March 28, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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