February 27, 2017


Shakespeare in Love – 1999 | 122 mins | Romance, Comedy | Colour


Plot Synopsis

Shakespeare in Love

The stuffy old period drama has been dusted off and polished until it sparkles in Shakespeare in Love. It’s a fast-paced film full of wit, intelligence, love, costumes and laughout-loud comedy set in Elizabethan times with a splendid ensemble of British actors plus a couple of Hollywood names.

Young Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is suffering from a severe case of writerís block, two rival theatre companies in London under Henalowe (Geoffrey Rush) and Burbage (Martin Clunes), vie for attention and scream for his latest work, Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate’s Daughter. But young Shakespeare just can’t seem to put quill to parchment. He needs a muse – and when he meets the gorgeous and spirited Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) he knows he has found one. She’s the daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur who craves social status and is eager to marry her off the poverty-stricken Earl of Wesse (Colin Firth). Viola secretly dreams of becoming an actress – but girls are banned from the stage in these unenlightened days.

So she disguises herself as a boy in order to play Romeo in Will’s play. He quickly uncovers her talent in more ways than one-and the pair of 16th Century lovebirds enjoy a passionate affair in the run up to opening night. The path of true love, however, is fraught with problems. Will is unhappily married to Anne Hathaway and is the father of twins. Viola, for her part, cannot defy her father on the orders of Queen Elizabeth (Dame Judi Dench) and is due to marry the earl and be whisked off to the New World within a matter of weeks, so life reflects art as Shakespeare’s fast emerging re-titled play Romeo and Juliet mirrors Will and Viola’s doomed love.

The story is a clever one, but the real delight of this film lies in its fun-filled and irreverent screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard which is packed with in-jokes, modern references are wittily coupled with historical ones. Director John Madden has done a fantastic job in keeping up a very Nineties pace and obtaining superb performances from his gloriously talented cast. If there is a downside it is that next to Shakespeare’s epic love story, the one between Will and Viola is curiously lacking in passion. To some extent this can be put down to Gwyneth Paltrow whose performance as the heady young heiress lacks conviction in the theatre scenes and is slightly unsympathetic. Ben Affleck’s part as actor Ned Alleyn is an in-joke too far (he’s an ex-boyfriend of Paltrow) and completely superfluous to the plot’s requirements. But those are minor gripes about what is truly a terrific film that cannot fail to satisfy on almost every level. If the loverís tragedy doesn’t have you weeping it will probably be because you’re too busy chuckling at the jokes. With its hot performances and hilarious comedy, this movie has reinvented the big screen period drama.

Production Team

John Madden: Director
Steve Lawrence: Art Direction
Richard Greatrex: Cinematography
Sandy Powell: Costume Designer
David Gamble: Editing
Meryl Poster: Executive Producer
Bob Weinstein: Executive Producer
Julie Goldstein: Executive Producer
Donna Gigliotti: Executive Producer
Tina Earnshaw: Make-up
Lisa Westcott: Make-up
Stephen Warbeck: Music
Marc Norman: Producer
Edward Zwick: Producer
Harvey Weinstein: Producer
David Parfitt: Producer
Linda Bruce: Producer
Marshall Herskovitz: Producer
Martin Childs: Production Designer
Tom Stoppard: Script
Marc Norman: Script
Stephen Gilmour: Sound
Peter Glossop: Sound


Gwyneth Paltrow: Viola De Lesseps
Joseph Fiennes: William Shakespeare
Geoffrey Rush: Philip Henslowe
Judi Dench: Queen Elizabeth
Simon Callow: Tilney, Master of the Revels
Colin Firth: Lord Wessex
Imelda Staunton: Nurse
Ben Affleck: Ned Alleyn
Tom Wilkinson: Hugh Fennyman
Jim Carter: Ralph Bashford
Martin Clunes: Richard Burbage
Rupert Everett: Christopher Marlowe

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