Released 1998 (USA)
American, in English
Director – John Madden
Stars – Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench, and dozens of other actors you’ll recognize
While suffering from writer’s block, William Shakespeare (Fiennes) finally meets his muse, Viola De Lesseps (Paltrow) and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays. Rush co-stars as Philip Henslowe, owner of the Rose theatre, and Dench as Queen Elizabeth I.
Very minimal blue language; nudity (female breast only); sexy times.
It’s really full of itself. I had this feeling throughout the whole entire movie that it just finds itself so clever and amusing. It was insufferable.
The love story is remarkably similar to that of Titanic. A highborn woman, more intelligent and spirited than her times allow, is engaged to a highborn man who is cruel, stupid, and cowardly, but she falls in love with a handsome, sweet lowborn man. I really didn’t need to see it twice in a row.
A lot of the dialogue was regurgitated from Shakespeare plays so it didn’t feel very fresh. When the writers did strike out on their own, however, the dialogue (like in Titanic) felt too modern. I didn’t believe that it was the way people in 1500s England would speak or interact with one another.
Rush kept me laughing, as did Imelda Staunton (as Viola’s nurse). I also really enjoyed the performance of Dench as the acerbic, impatient, witty queen.
It’s truly amazing how one’s perception and tastes can change over time. I saw this in the theater when it came out and really liked it, to the point that when people howled in anger about it winning Best Picture, I thought to myself, “Whatever, it’s a great film!” This time around, I couldn’t stand it. What is the point of this film? It masquerades as a smart flick while really it’s just a rip-off/rehash of Shakespeare. I’m sure it’s meant to be an homage but it doesn’t feel like one, probably because it’s so conceited.
This was a weird year. Of the five nominees, two were about Elizabethan England (and Fiennes & Rush were in both of them) while the other three were about WWII, although each of them showcased a different theater of that war. How strange is that? I’m not sure what deserved the prize in 1998. I’ve never seen “Elizabeth,” so I can’t judge it. “Life Is Beautiful” won Best Foreign so I don’t think it deserves Best Picture on top of it. And I felt that both “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line” (which I call “The Long Boring Snooze”) were overrated. Perhaps if I watched them again, however, I would find that my perception of them has changed.
At any rate, this is not the worst Best Picture winner I’ve seen, a title still held by Tom Jones, but I don’t think it deserved the Oscar. If it hadn’t won, it would have become a footnote of movie history, like most movies, because there’s really nothing remarkable about it.
I give the movie 2.5 stars.