Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shakespeare in Love

Yeah, yeah, I know. This hasn't gotten the best of reputations because of several reasons. For instance, it continually causes a stink for it won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. For what it's worth, it has its good points.

For starters, there is the script by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman. Although historically inaccurate (several of the lines refer to events that would occur about two hundred years later), it's laced with witty remarks and passionate romance. (I couldn't help but laugh at an early scene where Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) describes his writer's block and it temporarily gets mistaken as troubles in the bedroom.) That's usually something I look for in a script.

The second thing is the acting. Loaded with a number of respectable names, they all play their parts well. Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush and Judi Dench may have gotten Oscar's attention (Paltrow and Dench proving themselves victorious), but my attention went to Fiennes. His sorrow, his desires, his guilt, all play across his face. That's what acting should be like. (I was also amused by Ben Affleck as an actor who thinks he's God's gift to theater.)

The smaller aspects of Shakespeare in Love work wonders. The costumes by Sandy Powell are just gorgeous. Same could be said for Stephen Warbeck's score, which, like the script, balances out humor and romance. You have to admire a film with good technical aspects and it's not a big budget production.

If you think I'm softening up to a pariah among the Best Picture winners, think again. Yes, I did just sang my praises for it, but it doesn't mean I loved it. In short, did it deserve to win over Saving Private Ryan? Nope. (Damn it, Weinstein!)

My Rating: ****1/2


  1. Saw this in the theater, hated it. Saw it once more on DVD, hated it. But, for whatever reason, I've been interested in giving it another go. Maybe I'll find something to like this time around...?

  2. I honestly don't think this deserves all of the shit it usually gets but it didn't deserve Best Picture. It's a very funny and romantic flick that works well and will definitely put anybody in a happy mood. Paltrow is also great in this role but I don't know what was so spectacular about her performance in the first place. Still, great aspects all around. Good review.

  3. This is one of the greatest films made in the 1990s and fully deserves all the accolades it received, including Best Picture. It has a multi-layered script that works for both Shakespeare fans and regular folks (just like Shakespeare's plays were written to appeal to both the Groundlings and the more sophisticated viewers above them.) It has great acting, and all the sets and costumes were top-notch.

    It has simply been the constant howling from Saving Private Ryan fans that has downgraded this film. How can that icky kissing and romance and stuff beat out a manly war film? Easy. It was original, whereas Saving Private Ryan, once you get past the D-Day opening, is simply a rehash of every WWII movie cliche there was. Soldiers realizing they are walking in a mine field? Check. Enemy coming along before everyone is safely out of it? Check. Running into civilians, especially children, who are paying the cost for war? Check. Soldiers wanting to help them, but not being able to? Check. Trapped in a place with grenades being thrown in and having to locate them and throw them back? Check. Deus ex machina moment when it looks like all hope is lost? Check.

    Aside from the cliches there is also a "twist" that is completely obvious to anyone who can take Hanks' age, add 50 years to it, and realize the man at the beginning is far too young to be Hanks.

    1. Damn man, I'm impressed. Fair enough. Because of this passionate response, I'll give Shakes in Love another go.

      Also, I don't really mind that it beat SPR for the Best Picture Oscar. The older I get, the less and less the Oscars make actual sense.


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