Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush & Colin Firth

Rating 8/10

Time to eat my words. I have been unreasonably hard on this film. When it was released it was competing with another Elizabethan film, aptly named Elizabeth. I saw Shakespeare in Love as more of a Hollywood kinda film. But now that I have seen it in isolation, my feelings have changed and I like it.

William Shakespeare (Fiennes) has writer’s block. His only hope is a muse, a lover, someone to get his mojo going. Meanwhile theatre owner, Philip Henslowe (Rush) is having a dickens of a time keeping his business afloat while waiting for Shakespeare’s next play and the plague of course. Meanwhile Viola de Lesseps (Paltrow), a high class lady dreams of becoming an actor. So she does. She disguises herself as a man, Thomas Kent and is swiftly cast as Romeo.

When Shakespeare realises Kent is actually Viola, their affair begins in earnest. Nursey rocks back and forth on her rocking chair, mopping her brow, Wil and Vi steal kisses off stage. Things get passionate! Cold shower time people. Meanwhile part 2, Viola’s parents have arranged her marriage with the shockingly hideous Lord Wessex (Firth). Drama, drama, drama. Wessex starts to get suspicious of Wil (who says he’s Christopher Marlowe) and threatens him with violence. A few days later Marlowe is murdered, Kent is found out to be a real girl, there’s a marriage and the theatre is shut down… for good!

Meanwhile part 3, rival theatre, The Curtain, offers their stage for Shakespeare’s great moment. The fella playing Juliet loses his girly voice and good old Vi takes the stage. Applause, the Queen (Judi Dench – who else?) and another play is born out of the despair of our star-crossed lovers.

I was pretty outraged when this film won the Best Picture Oscar. In my mind it was a fluffy, romantic comedy. But it’s much more than that. The music is beautiful and it weaves history, literature, romance and drama into an exciting tale. The battle of the Capulets and Montagues is mirrored by the battle between The Rose Theatre and The Curtain, and the battle between Lord Wessex and Shakespeare, and also, funnily enough, the battle between Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth.

There’s so much passion and love and life in this film. You can’t help but be swept away by it all, even if you don’t want to be. You get sucked in to the story by the humour and the stunning performances by Fiennes, Paltrow, Rush, Dench and even Ben Affleck. Go figure. It is so watchable it’s insane. Loved it this time and this is me eating my words… nom, nom, nom.

Shakespeare in Love Trivia:

  • Budget – $25 million
  • Julia Roberts was cast to play Viola but withdrew  because she wanted Daniel Day-Lewis to play Shakespeare (apparently) and that role had not been filled as yet.
  • After filming had finished, Judi Dench was given the set of the Rose Theatre – life size replica.
  • Fiennes appeared in both Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love.
  • Kate Winslet turned down the role of Viola. It must suck when you do that when the actress who says yes wins an Oscar.
  • Dench won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress but was only onscreen for 8 minutes in 4 scenes.
  • Shakespeare himself is not credited in this film.
  • Ben Affleck and Gwyneth were dating at the time.
  • According to some magazine somewhere, real Prince Edward was going to be crowned the Duke of Cambridge but after he saw this film, he asked if he could be the Earl of Wessex… odd don’t you think?
  • This is the 2nd film that Firth’s character’s woman has been stolen by a Fiennes. The other was by Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient.

Next week we’re transported back to the modern world. A crazy place with complex and, at times, seedy problems. We’re watching American Beauty.

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2 comments on “Best Picture – Shakespeare in Love (1998)

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