The jewel of the period boxset I’ve been working through this week was undoubtedly Shakespeare in Love (1998), an apocryphal rom-com starring Joseph Fiennes as the eponymous playwright, and Gwyneth Paltrow as the well-born woman who supposedly inspired him to write Romeo and Juliet… oddly though, it’s also the film I have the least to say about! It made me laugh and cry and cheer and curse, and all of that. It’s a rollicking good tale, expertly told, and beautifully illustrated. Fiennes is fantastically charismatic and dashing… Paltrow is incredibly beautiful and winning… Colin Firth makes a delightfully hiss-able villain… and Dame Judi Dench is suitably majestic as ‘Queen Elizabeth I’. She may only appear on screen for six minutes max., but she makes every second count, and even collected a well-deserved Oscar for her efforts! Paltrow also earned her fair share of trophies, playing a wealthy young lady masquerading as a male actor, in order to live out her forbidden thespian fantasies and get closer to her beloved poet, before being married off to an unfeeling toff. Boo!
I was a little disappointed by how broad and bawdy the jokes were at the beginning, but as several commenters have pointed out, that’s the genius of the screenplay… it mimics several of Shakespeare’s own techniques and tropes, as well as his remarkable ability to blend the profane with the divine, appealing to paupers and princes alike. So, the only real complaint I have is that with all the liberties they took, and deliberate anachronisms they included, the film-makers couldn’t see their way to showing any non-white faces on screen, despite the historical evidence which would have encouraged such affirmative action. Tsk! Other than that though, it’s a stone-cold classic, and highly recommended.