Wednesday, May 04, 2011
#113: Shakespeare in Love
With an ensemble cast of Judi Dench, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Gywneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, director John Madden brings alive a time from the 15th century when William Shakespeare was struggling with his most famous romantic tragedy- Romeo and Juliet. Even as Shakespeare begins writing it with the intention to make it a comedy, a chance meeting brings him face to face with Viola De Lesseps (Paltrow)- an avid follower of theater. Cupid strikes and so does inspiration for the Bard as he transforms Romeo and Juliet into a tragedy. Shakespeare in Love is the fictional account of that journey set against the Elizabethean era.
That crisp air that British productions typically wear makes Shakespeare in Love a compact and commendable effort- an effort that went on to win 7 Oscars and is still the last comedy to win a Best Picture award. The best thing about the movie is that it's fantastic attention to details makes it seem a story that's convincingly carved out of that era. The deft costumes, sharp dialogues and a lively background score work beautifully in unison to make it a treat to watch.
Joseph Fiennes as the lanky Bard might take time to capture your imagination but as the story progresses you accept his shortcomings as those of Shakespeare himself. His urgency in writing, his cheeky demeanour and above all, his irrepressible desire for Viola De Lesseps comes forth as naturally effective. Colin Firth plays the bad man for a change. What doesn't change is the effortlessness he is so used to displaying. The same goes for seasoned actors such as Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson while Paltrow is plain charming and brings immense credit to her part.
It is a travesty of sorts that one can easily count the really good Shakespeare movie adaptations. To that end, Shakespeare in Love is a laudable addition to that list. And even though this one was voted in a BBC poll once as the least deserving Oscar winner of all times, I would recommend this as a must-watch if you're a Shakespeare fan. If you're not, watch it still because as far as movies based on Shakespeare are concerned, this is as close a movie can get to being solidly good.