Shakespeare in Love

You know, being known as the “film girl” is not all that great. It’s a label, a mere tag that’s supposed to sum up your whole character. And it sucks, no matter the label people – or even yourself – try to slap upon your existence. So, though I’m in love with films, I’m not watching much movies lately. And I like it. If you rush it, watching films becomes an expected duty of some sort, and it definitely lessens the experience. I’ve been expanding my world into other artistic realms – slam poetry, great books, cool music, whatever. And I love it. But lately, I’ve started to get hungry. Hungry to see a movie. I think it’s time to go back, and it feels just right. I’m going back because I want to – not because it’s expected. (This long introductory paragraph is supposed to stand as a reason for my lack of blogging for the past few weeks. :))

Let’s continue…

Shakespeare is everywhere, unfortunately. It’s bad enough people are regularly indoctrinated at school, but his writing permeates modern literature, television, numerous plays, even video games. (OK. Maybe not video games.) This overindulgence leads to a watering down of his slicing prose, lending his works to infamy and therefore annoyance. Now, instead of focusing on other, more talented writers of the past, director Thomas Madden decides to weaken the name of Shakespeare even further with his Shakespeare in Love. It’s not a pretty sight.

Shakespeare in Love is one of the best reasons why the Academy Awards is a very bad joke played on the public for decades. Winner of Best Picture in 1998, Shakespeare attempts to fill in the spaces of William’s personal life while he wrote the illustrious Romeo and Juliet. What occurs is a cliche-ridden mess.

Common, yet still disappointing, Shakespeare in Love is brimming with historical inconsistencies. (Note to filmmakers: putting your actors in stuffy, fluffy costumes does not justify lazy writing regarding the accuracy of historical fact.) Shakespeare is a fictional tale, but from what history details: Shakespeare was not a dashing, charming young man who swooned rich men’s daughters; fat, broke, and brilliant would be more accurate. Queen Elizabeth, performed by Judi Dench, did not randomly show up to public playhouses. (Is it me, or is Dench somehow contractually required to show up in every English film ever?). And Romeo and Juliet wasn’t so popular at first.

But never mind that. The “love” story between Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and Viola (Gwenyth Paltrow), a soon to be married daughter of a rich man, is problematic. For one, it’s all been done before. You know, the rich-daughter-wants-poor-man-but-has-to-marry-another-rich-guy-who-is-really-mean-and-old-so-she-runs-away-and-eventually-lives-happily-ever-after-with-poor-dude plot? Yeah, that one. In addition, the other boring, uninteresting, and meaningless subplots cloud an already stressed and overused love story. The only time the story gains strength is when it aligns with history. In the 1500’s, women weren’t allowed to perform on stage. A movie adaptation of the significantly important story of the fight of creative rights for women would be far more fascinating than this bloated, overrated film.

In one key scene, Viola defends the honesty and purity of plays and poetry to the Queen of England.

“Plays cannot show the very truth and nature of love,” Queen Elizabeth declares.

Viola is adamant. “Oh, but they can!”

I’m sorry, Viola. Others have succeeded, but Shakespeare in Love is not one of them.

17 thoughts on “Shakespeare in Love

  1. Oh gosh, maybe it’s just me but I kinda liked this film! It definitely wasn’t Best Picture material, but I thought it was a fun watch.

    Also, I think the lead actor is Joseph Fiennes, not Ralph Fiennes :p

  2. I get why so many people hold a grudge against this movie, but I can’t. I just love it too much because of it’s hilariously witty-script and fun-feel to the final-product. Didn’t deserve to win Best Picture, but definitely had it’s moments of high-class entertainment. Good review Alley.

  3. Nice review! I am no fan of this one either, although I do love Shakespeare. His plays and sonnets played a huge part of my education, and I wouldn’t be without it. I like how his influence unavoidable in society, but that’s just me.

    I personally prefer this take from some of my favourite British comedians: Shakesbeare in Love even though it is very rude in places!

  4. Agree. It’s far from being the Best Picture of 1998. I may just be saying this because I don’t like rom coms, but I didn’t think it was anything special. Nice review.

  5. It has been a fewyears sinceI have seen Shakespeare in Love, but I recall enjoying it. I wasn’t expecting historical accuracy when it came to The Bard or the times, so I wasn’t taking it as seriously. I agree that it does get the most poignant when it addresses issues of the time, like the inability of women to perform on stage.

  6. Oh God, I love every single word of this review. You’re absolutely right, this is a bloated, overrated film, one that many have done better.

  7. The only thing I remember was Judi Dench won an oscar for 8 minutes of screen time, so she was kind of embarrassed by that, most people agreed that Dench should have won the year before for Mrs Brown.

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