Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Certainly deserved the Oscar nomination for costume...

Certainly a well-deserved Oscar nomination for costume design

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INTRODUCTION. My brother expressed surprise yesterday evening, when reminded that John Madden’s gem of a film was not only nominated for thirteen Oscars in 1998 – it won seven of those nominations. I made fun of this fact on twitter not too long ago before admonishing myself into guiltily giving it another go. Most decent flicks deserve another go, don’t they? Incidentally, Shakespeare in Love is one of many films up for a potential sequel; it is also being adapted for stage in London’s West End later this year.

CHARACTERS. I harbour serious doubts about Will Shakespeare’s attractiveness relative to that of Joseph Fiennes but let’s not go into what was (or wasn’t) considered attractive in the Elizabethan era. Everyone in this production is extremely likeable- and while lacking in the complexity or seriousness of a more elaborate plot, they nonetheless succeed in conveying the grey areas of humanity, in which no perfect heroes or villains exist. Endearing lot. 

STORY. Poor ol’ Will has run dry his wells of inspiration while being greatly pressed by financiers for the pages of a script we have all come to know now as Romeo & Juliet. His dry spell is brought to a glorious culmination when he falls for a woman of higher class – though not necessarily of higher ideal. In spite of the fact that Shakespeare in Love is often sold as a torrid love story, it’s really a whole bunch of things all at once. Drama, comedy, romance, period movie. As a whole, I suspect that the poor bard might have actually enjoyed the entire affair. You will find famous stage lines littered comically all through the film, and with them a familiar sense of humour, perhaps as bizarre and base as many of Shakespeare’s witticisms were intended. Fair warning: it’s not a good production for nitpickers (unless they enjoy nitpicking, as many intellectuals do, in which case it is fantastic). Yes, we all know that stage actors shouldn’t really whisper onstage or how unrealistic it is for blah blah blah. 

CONCLUSION. I’m not going to tell you that Shakespeare in Love deserved every one of its Oscar wins or that it is a severely underrated cinematic masterpiece. It’s a solid movie with some brilliant moments, gorgeous costumes, clever dialogue and a lot of heart. The end-shot is breathtaking: one of my favourites. 

N

CHARACTERS: 6.5/10
STORY: 7.5/10
REWATCH FACTOR: 6/10
OVERALL: 6.8/10
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