Oscar Review: Shakespeare in Love (1998)

The 71st Best Picture received 7 awards for its 13 nominations in 1998. Ranked as the #50 Passion by the American Film Institute, Shakespeare in Love is a charming tale of love and its power to inspire.

Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is struggling to write his next master work. Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) loves the theater but is arranged to be married to wealthy Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) and sent off to America. Because it is forbidden for women to act on stage, Viola dresses up as Thomas Kent in order to audition for the main role in Shakespeare’s next play.

Upon discovering Thomas’ true identity, Will and Viola embark on a passionate love affair. Their romance inspires Will to convert the scenes of their relationship into the beloved Romeo and Juliet – so named because “Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter” didn’t quite role off the tongue.

Through many ups and downs with trying to find the right players – including Mercutio (Ben Affleck) – squabbles between Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) and Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson) over money, and having the theaters shut down, Will and his “Romeo” try to make the most out of their limited time together before she is due to be married.

Upon viewing the opening performance of Shakespeare’s new play, Queen Elizabeth (Judi Dench) declares that true love can be depicted on stage and declares Will the winner of his bet with Wessex just as Viola is about to head off to America.
*****
Shakespeare in Love is a truly entertaining film that is easy to watch over and over again. Once you are able to suspend your powers of disbelief and get passed the fact that it’s not trying to be historically accurate, I’m sure you will find to be as touching as it is humorous.

It’s Oscars include Best Picture, Actress (Paltrow), Supporting Actress (Dench), Art Direction, Costume Design, Original Score, and Original Screenplay. I believe 1998’s Saving Private Ryan was the better film overall, and I am pleased that Steven Spielberg walked away with the directing Oscar and 4 others of its 11 nominations. And I am equally glad to have seen Roberto Benigni‘s Life is Beautiful do so well.

1998 was a good year for movies.

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