William Shakespeare falls in love with a beautiful noblewoman
above his station and is inspired to write his most famous play.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Directed by John Madden
Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush,
Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Simon Callow, Imelda Staunton, Mark Williams, Steven O'Donnell
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actress (Gwyneth Paltrow),
Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design,
Best Original Score (Stephen Warbeck)
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush),
Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing,
Best Film Editing, Best Makeup
Despite an Oscar win for Best Picture, Shakespeare in Love has apparently fallen through the cracks since its release in 1998. It's infamous victory over the vastly superior Saving Private Ryan seems to have turned the film into a sort of cinematic pariah to die-hard film fans. And yet, after finally watching it myself, it's clear to me why Shakespeare in Love took home the top prize. Even today, it seems fresh and innocent. Overall, it's a film about love. Its nature, its faults, finding it, losing it, accepting it's beyond your control. This film uses the timeless backdrop of Elizabethan London and the mysterious charm of William Shakespeare to bring this love to life, to show audiences that a life without love is barely a life at all. In this respect, this film shines on.
Shakespeare in Love sports an incredible ensemble of character actors, led by an impeccably charming performance from Joseph Fiennes and an enchanting one from Gwyneth Paltrow. Together, they play Shakespeare and the fictional Viola, the woman he falls deeply in love and becomes the inspiration for Romeo & Juliet. Underneath the serious dramatic tension is an unmistakable air of witty comedy. It's there to keep the film from taking itself too seriously and to consistently remind us that love is never just one single emotion. It's hilarious, but it's heartbreaking all at once. I'd go so far as to say that this film demonstrates the nature of love and the consequences of unrequited desire better than most.
This was a film I never thought I would enjoy in a million years. It takes a lot of liberties with Shakespeare's story, but that's okay. The story they give us is so larger than life and (at times) overacted that it feels like an excerpt torn right from the pages of Shakespeare's own work. I found it entertaining and, dare I say it, worthy of the title of Best Picture. Just maybe not over Saving Private Ryan.