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Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) has writer's block. Neither the pressure of theatre owner Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) nor the insistence of financier Hugh Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson) can stir his creative juices. Then he sets eyes on the lovely, cultivated, upper class Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). Viola, however, has been commanded by Queen Elizabeth (Judi Dench) to marry the insistent gold-digger Lord Wessex (Colin Firth). Aspiring to be an actor, at a time when women were not allowed on the stage, Viola auditions for the role of Romeo, disguised as a man, following which, a series of mistaken identities, brawls, swordfights, and passionate embraces between Bard and bedmate mirror the themes of the play.

"It’s clever, no question; perhaps a bit too clever. A mug on Shakespeare’s troubled writing desk is a souvenir from Stratford on Avon. This is one example of the touch of self parody about this film, which while welcome, plays against the dramatic content, making it seem a superfluous speed bump in the way of the fast and clever (often ‘in’) comedy. The (very sharply crafted) script’s self indulgent qualities, however, are well masked by the performances from a superior cast. I have to admit, however, to a sense of having overdosed a bit on the talented and watchable Gwyneth Paltrow, and a mild irritation with Joseph Fiennes’ Shakespeare. Funny it may be to see him in a less exalted light – and heresy IS good for the literate soul – there is no need to make him a bit intense and stupid. And (I hesitate to admit) I find Geoffrey Rush’s rather rancid performance well below his capabilities, but I actually blame the director, John Madden, for the error of judgement. It’s a tad overdone, guys, this nerdy theatre owner, eyes bulging, drivelling through yellowed teeth….. Having been so negative, I must emphasise there are also many positive aspects to enjoy: overall, the production design and photography are superb, and many of the performances are outstanding. There are a number of excellent scenes, including some where the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet come to life for the first time (as it were)."
Andrew L. Urban

"Witty, amusing and original, Shakespeare in Love is intelligent cinema with its superb cast, cleverly pitting today's situations against those in Shakespeare's day, skilfully crossing the bridge of time. Nothing seems to have changed much - lunch specials at the tavern, visits to psychics (today it’s shrinks). The sets are extravagant, costumes splendid, music score melodic with gorgeous cinematography displaying a handsome production. Gwyneth Paltrow is exquisite – she glows as Viola, delivering an endearing, striking performance, beautifully matched by Joseph Fiennes, whose intense sultry good looks make excellent leading man material. Paltrow and Fiennes are good together, allowing the central love theme to shine. Special mention of Geoffrey Rush, whose delightfully unrefined character displays great comic appeal. You don't have to be a Shakespeare savant to enjoy Shakespeare in Love. It's lighthearted, intelligent yet frivolous, full of wit and charm; something quite different from the slate of Hollywood offerings."
Louise Keller

"The play's the thing," Shakespeare once wrote, and indeed, the mastery of the written word is in evidence when one sees - and hears - this engaging and droll piece. Under the astute penmanship of Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, combined with the visual fluidity of director John Madden, Shakespeare in Love is one of the movie surprises of the year. In its two-hour framework, the film has enveloped more detailed and developed themes, than most films released, and treats them all with intelligent coherence. Exploring such issues as duty, the role of women in society and the purity of the romantic spirit, the film may be set in Elizabethan England, but is still a contemporary one. Funny, sexy, romantic and gorgeous on the eye, Shakespeare in Love crackles with wit, intelligence and poetry. The film boasts an impressive cast, and each actor gives of their best. Paltrow seems at home playing English characters, and here delivers her finest performance to date. Her mastery of comedy is evident. She seems so right for Viola, and has an ear for dialect and a rhythm for the complexities of the language. She also looks exquisite, and matches that Shakespearian description: 'O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" Joseph Fiennes (wasted in the recent Elizabeth), is superb here, delivering a charming performance, while Geoffrey Rush steals the film as the flustered theatre owner - he's hysterical. Tom Wilkinson and America's Ben Affleck also stand out. The film is also marvellous in the way it accurately sets about exploring the class divisions that operated in Elizabethan England. Masterfully directed by Madden (of Mrs Brown fame), Shakespeare in Love is rollicking entertainment on a grand scale."
Paul Fischer

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Tom Stoppard met Joseph Fiennes in a bookshop, and didn't recognise him. Until Fiennes introduced himself - as William Shakespeare.



CAST: Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Simon Callow, Martin Clunes, Rupert Everett, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Sandra Reinton,

DIRECTOR: John Madden

PRODUCER: Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick, David Parfitt, Marc Norman, Marshall Herskovitz

SCRIPT: Marc Norman, Tom Stoppard


EDITOR: David Gamble

MUSIC: Stephen Warbeck


RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 11, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE (RENTAL): August 30, 1999

SELL-THRU: February 1, 2000

RRP: $24.95

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video

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