Can Shakespeare Beat Private Ryan to an Oscar? CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY Reviews the Made-in-Britain Romance Set to Be a Classic

Daily Mail (London), January 20, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Can Shakespeare Beat Private Ryan to an Oscar? CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY Reviews the Made-in-Britain Romance Set to Be a Classic


Byline: CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY

Shakespeare in Love Verdict: A classic romantic comedy, sparkling with wit and wonderful performances. *****

HOW weary, stale, flat and unprofitable so many films will seem after Shakespeare in Love, an Anglo-American production that is in love with words, theatre, Shakespeare and the pain and pleasure of overwhelming love.

Joseph Fiennes establishes himself not only as Britain's number one heartthrob but also as a tremendous actor, equally adept at comedy or tragedy.

He portrays William Shakespeare, a young playwright and occasional actor with a failed marriage behind him and a bad case of writer's block on his latest effort, a comedy provisionally entitled Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter.

He is being wooed for the manuscript by two rival theatre managers, Burbage (Martin Clunes) and Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) but unable to deliver.

He is also angry at the way the actors mangle his lines.

Most of all, he is jealous that everyone thinks more highly of the handsome and talented playwright Kit Marlowe (Rupert Everett) than of him. No sooner does Will enter a boat than the ferryman is informing him tactlessly, 'I had that Christopher Marlowe in my boat once.' Will needs a muse, and along she comes in the shape of rich merchant's daughter Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) who has acting ambitions, even though acting is a man's profession and her parents wish her to wed the Duke of Wessex (Colin Firth).

Viola infiltrates Shakespeare's company in drag, she and Will fall in love, and she becomes his inspiration. Their love is not to be, however, as the Establishment, personified by Dame Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I, decrees otherwise.

Shot mainly at Shepperton Studios, with scenes at Broughton Castle, near Banbury in Oxfordshire, and along the Thames, director John Madden's follow-up to Mrs Brown is a far more lavish affair and infinitely more cinematic.

It is blessed with a marvellous screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman - well-structured, witty and wise. Running through it is a profound love of theatre and a huge, though far from critical, affection for actors.

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Can Shakespeare Beat Private Ryan to an Oscar? CHRISTOPHER TOOKEY Reviews the Made-in-Britain Romance Set to Be a Classic
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