Shakespeare in Love/A-,A

Miramax/1998/122/ANA 2.35


Cited by ISF for high transfer standards

Here’s one way to make Shakespeare approachable to modern audiences: turn out a light, energetic, romantic comedy lampooning the creative process.  Shakespeare in Love succeeds in bringing the robust Elizabethan humor to life with Shakespeare, arguably the world’s most famous writer, at the center of a group of players gushing with period charm. The play’s the thing, and it’s "Romeo and Ethyl, the Pirate’s Daughter."  With some help from a fellow writer and a little refinement,  Ethyl becomes Juliet pining for her lover on a balcony. And while Shakespeare composes the lyrical world of for his play, he chases after the woman who turns out to be his lead actor.  The delicious historical romp comes to life in romantic comedy that brings to life the world’s most famous writer is a romantic comedy full of Elizabethan charm.  

The Queen's party dress.©Miramax

     The play may be the thing, but it takes actors to bring it to life and Shakespeare in Love boasts many fine performances and, one misstep that the production miraculously survives. Joseph Fiennes plays William Shakespeare as a callow and frenetic fellow more interesting in the bed than being the bard. Fiennes tries too hard methinks. His energy seems consistently misplaced, he’s the most modern man in the production, and it’s hard to believe that he is able to charm players, ladies and entrepreneurs alike. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar© winning  performance as Viola De Lesseps stands up boldly to numerous revisits. Paltrow has the grace and breeding to pull off the comedy and romance with delight. Geoffrey Rush is absolutely great as owner of The Rose, producer Phillip Henslowe and Tim Wilkinson (The Full Monty, Priest, The Governess) gives another simmering performance as the stage struck moneylender Hugh Fennyman. Ah yes, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress goes to Dame Judi Dench in the role of Queen Elizabeth. Dench is good and the role provides her with good moments as bawdy Queen Bess. 
     Scenes of street life flow with excitement and grand ambiance. Set Design is wonderful, creating the buildings and space that feels authentic. Likewise, the costumes ring true. The team assembled by director John Madden works splendidly is delivering a period picture of great finesse and detail. Madden is right at home on this turf after directing Mrs. Brown in his previous outing. From Victoria to Elizabeth is one sweet leap; Madden handles his actors with great ease and moves from drama to comedy with the grace of a quill to parchment. With seven Oscars© Shakespeare in Love swept the laurels at the 1998 Academy Awards. The feel good nature of the production certainly made it a popular winner, but director Madden lost out to Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan. Oh well, the awards are about politics, aren’t they?
     Let’s gush a bit over the quality of Shakespeare in Love and its beautiful anamorphic DVD images. Right from the opening credits, which pan across a thatched roof and past some rail balusters, the image is stable and free from jitter. This is some very difficult material and Shakespeare passes the test with royal colors. Lighting is transferred faithfully from the warmly lit interiors to the brilliant fireworks at the Queen’s bash. The amazing depth of color can been seen in the magnificent costumes. The Queen’s peacock concoction at her party comes alive in sprightly detail, capturing the gaudiness of court and royalty with an obvious relish. With rich saturation and subtle detail the transfer captures the glory of this colorful evocation of Elizabethan England. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround captures the sounds of the street with subtle energy. The fine musical score comes to life with due fanfare.





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