I don’t even know if this is qualified as a Guilty Pleasure, given that it was nominated for 13 Oscar and won a whooping 7 of them, including Best Picture.

The ridiculously great thing is that this movie is so overdone and pompous, like a musical without songs. It is the prose and poetry that is the music, representing or mirroring the feelings of the characters around it.

And I love it!

Shakespeare in Love with all its amazing characters :D

Shakespeare in Love with all its amazing characters 😀

***SPOLIERS*** (you don’t watch this for the story, you already know the story of Romeo and Juliet)

 

What is this movie?

“Shakespeare in Love” (1998) was the big sweepstakes movie of the 71st Academy Awards, beating war movie “Saving Private Ryan“, who only received five awards.

This is an epic, and (notably) fictional, account of William Shakespeare and the forbidden love that inspired and fuelled his most famous work “Romeo and Juliet”.

Will is played by the dashing Joseph Fiennes (no, not Ralph Fiennes, but his brother) and his love interest is found in the form of Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola (the Iron Man woman). She actually won a “Best Actress” Oscar for this portrayal.

 

Why is this movie any good?

This is the case of a solid, although a bit sappy, script getting the correct treatment (it doesn’t take itself too seriously) and a perfect cast.

The story feels real, incorporating famous contemporaries of Shakespeare, like Christopher Marlowe and Webster. There is a danger is representing fictional history this well because that some people, those who don’t Google quickly to figure it out the opposite, will believe it to be true.

But given that we don’t know too many solid facts about William Shakespeare, there is even a theory that he was not one but several writers, I am inclined to choose to believe that the story in this movie could have been true. Maybe.

Because I want it to be true.

And that makes it a good movie.

 

Why do I like this movie?

The movie wallows in its own self-importance, much like many of its characters who wallow in their own genius. It also talks about love in a very old-fashioned, poetic and idealised way. And by doing all of this in an exaggerated fashion, it makes fun of idealised, fictional love while coupling it with a sad, romantic ending.

It is this serious fun, the silly/real characters and the perfect balance between prose and facts, fiction and reality that makes this film strike a chord with me.

It is one of those rare movies that actually has a thoroughly strong female lead. Viola makes active choices to try and change her life, and she doesn’t sit by quietly as she is sold like a horse (literally, just listen to the language they use) to Lord Wessex (a man of no poetry in the shape of Colin Firth).

Viola is the one who decides to dress up like a boy and go to the playhouse, knowing fully well that females on stage is strictly forbidden. She defies everyone, but is forced by tradition and circumstance to submit to the wills of her parents and Lord Wessex in the end.

But there stands great respect for daring to do anything at all in such a society.

Anyone who takes this movie historically serious needs to watch it again. This is not about facts, it is about fiction. Revel in it!

 

Why do I watch it over and over again?

I still get a butterfly sensation in my belly at when Shakespeare and Viola have clandestine kisses during rehearsal and a tinkling flutter down my spine as they perform “Romeo and Juliet” for the very first time.

And obviously, any film with an actual strong female lead is worth rewatching at times when the world seems impossible and cruel.

But above all this film belongs to its supporting actors, four of which I will mention here:

 

The Story of Mister Fennyman

The character who charms me the most is Mister Fennyman, or “The Money”. He goes on a lovely journey from hard-eyed moneylender and businessman, to an all out theatre groupie and first-time actor.

I love the scenes and snippets where he is desperately rehearsing the two lines of dialogue he has been given in the play as the Apothecary. And oh how important that role becomes in the play (to him).

A true actor at heart.

 

Ben Affleck’s Best Performance to Date

Mr. Affleck can be faulted for many of his career choices (of which there are too many to mention), but in him there is a great actor, and that great actor blooms in this part as Ned Arreyn, the headline actor at the Rose and leader of the Admiral’s Men.

Ben Affleck’s portrayal as the self-important actor, turned impatient director (since his character, Mercutio, dies early in the play) doubles perfectly will Will Shakespeare’s equally self-important characteristics.

The beautiful thing is that they both know how to deal with each other’s egos, and how to squeeze the best out of their creative minds in tight situations.

It is a testament to how good “Romeo and Juliet” is when Ned Arreyn, instead of nagging Shakespeare about the early death of his character, rather advices him on the title.

Even this ego has been tamed.

Sneaky pic of Ben Affleck as Ned Arreyn

Sneaky pic of Ben Affleck as Ned Arreyn

Mr. Henslowe and his motto

One of the most important lessons of this movie, a lesson that can be applied both to theatre, film production, and probably other creative arts as well, is this:

The natural condition [of the theatre] is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

– Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush)-

So what is there to do about this? “Nothing”, Mr Henslowe, always says. “Stragely enough it all turns out well in the end.”

“How?”, you may ask, at which point Henslowe will tell you: “I don’t know, it’s a mystery”.

This fact saturates the world of “Shakespeare in Love”, and it’s what makes us accept many of the amazing, miracle fixes during the film.

However, the genius is that this story rule does not apply to the love story between Will and Viola. This enhances the feeling that their love story is real, not in the realm of the theatre and fiction.

 

And of course, Judi Dench as Queen Elisabeth

There are no words to express this performance. A woman in a man’s profession, Viola’s wish embodied. Her snarky remarks and fierce independence needs to be experienced.

 

What mood should you be in?

Although I would name this a comedy, because I laugh a whole lot while I watch it, it does have a fair amount of lovey-dovey scenes, both on- and off-stage where sequences of Shakespeare prose is being read simultaneously. You have to be in the mood for this.

In the mood for love and aged poetry.

But just remember, for every verse of prose, you get to see a fun or interesting back side, either particular for the time period, or a stick in the ribs to the current state of affairs. For example, there are boat men bragging about having had Christopher Marlowe (rival of Shakespeare) as a passenger, a typical trait of contemporary cab drivers.

 

Further Watching

For a modern take on the story of Romeo and Juliet, drag out the tear-jerking “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) by Baz Luhrman. This movie is a genious reinvention of the original play, using the original dialogue, but set in a modern-day Verona, with guns instead of swords and the big, puppy eyes of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Another modern remake of a Shakespeare story (of which there are many) I would recommend is the teen-movie “10 things I hate about you” (1999).

It is American high school movie version of “The Taming of the Shrew with a young Heath Ledger (The Joker), a baby-faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt (not Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception) and a sour-faced Julia Stiles (that woman in the Bourne-trilogy) who really hates everyone.

Want to keep it in the Elizabethan era? Another top contender for “Best Picture” in 1999 was “Elizabeth” (1998) with Cate Blanchett as the queen herself. Judge yourself who does the best queen. Judy Dench won an Oscar for her 6 minutes on screen.

Notably, Joseph Fiennes also plays a man cheating on his wife in “Elizabeth”, this time with the queen herself.

Does anyone know a modern remake of “Hamlet”? I have never managed to get through the old fashioned ones, so I would love some tips on that 😉

 

Follow my blog and get an email when I go to the cinema and check if one of the New Releases is worth a cinema ticket! 😀

 

Judi Dench as the fierce and fabulous Queen Elisabeth I

Judi Dench as the fierce and fabulous Queen Elisabeth I

 

Who am I?

I a freelance writer who likes to watch movies. Sometimes I will even watch some movies again and again and again. Those movies, that you can watch on repeat forever, are some of the best movies. They are Guilty Pleasures.

In these Guilty Pleasure blog posts, I will explore the movies I find myself turning back to again and again for comfort.

I initially thought of Guilty Pleasures as only bad movies that it is embarrassing to admit that you like, but I am broadening my perception to include any movie you watch again and again.

They alight certain emotions in us that we enjoy, for good or bad, and regardless of their production quality, they need to be acknowledge for their power to make us feel. Whether it be because the actors are hot, we don’t have to think to enjoy it, or the story is actually compelling.

 

Why do I think I can talk about movies?

With an over average interest in movies since watching Star Wars as an 8 year-old, and with some background in the industry, I know at least a little bit about what it takes to get a movie made, and have loads of opinions about what makes them great.

But no matter my merits, it is whether or not you agree with my taste in movies (or my boyfriend’s, whose opinion will be noted if opposing my own) that will make these reviews beneficial to you.

 

Where can you find the film?

In these days of cheap DVDs and Blu-Rays, why not treat yourself to a movie you know you will watch again and again. Don’t be at the mercy of the Internet or streaming services. They can take it away as soon as they put it up.

I have owned “Shakespeare in Love” for years and will continue to drag it out and force my boyfriend to watch it (he always seem to forget that it is actually funny) 😉

Don’t feel like giving them your money? You know what to do 😉

 

If you like what I write, please give me a shout in the comments or sign-up to read my next blog post 😉

Next week, I will go to a random movie at the cinema and tell you whether or not it was worth the cinema ticket. In the mean time, check out last months Guilty Pleasure movie here!

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