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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - February, 2012

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"Shakespeare in Love" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Heinonen

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Synopsis

William Shakespeare is one of the great writers of all time, but was it easy for him to write those plays?  What was it that inspired him to come up with the stories that we are still reading, performing, and enjoying hundreds of years later?  Shakespeare in Love imagines a young William Shakespeare, in and out of love, and lacking a muse to help drive his creative energies.  When a disguised Lady Viola comes to audition, as females are not allowed to act at this time, William finds someone that inspires him as no one else has.


Unfortunately Lady Viola is to be married to someone, and her identity cannot be discovered lest she not be allowed to continue acting in the play William is writing, a little thing called Romeo and Juliet.  As the play begins to take shape from the events in his own life, and the troubles of the world around them conspire to keep them apart, we come along for the ride to see an imagining of what it might have been like.

Specifications

  • Miramax
  • 1998, Color, R, 2 Hours, 2 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fienes, Colin Firth
  • Directed by John Madden
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: Yes
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

Most people now might talk about this as an example where Oscar got it wrong, and let the marketing engine of Miramax push their film to a victory over the more powerful, and serious, Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture.  Unfortunately I think this sells Shakespeare in Love short on how wonderful of a film it is.  No, it doesn’t deal with sacrifice for your country like Private Ryan, but it is still a fantastic, wonderful film that I will maintain is a fine choice for Best Picture (though my favorite films of that year were Out of Sight and Rushmore).

The story, acting, and directing are all wonderful, and the script from Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard is just fantastic in its wit and whimsy to help carry the film along.  Gwyneth Paltrow hasn’t done as much acclaimed work since this film as I had expected her to, but she delivers here and does a wonderful job in the role of Lady Viola.  I was quite happy to watch this again, as my memory of it had faded over time, and it let me recall how great a film it really is.

Technical

Shakespeare in Love is a stunning transfer, and far better than I recalled it being even when I saw it in theaters.  Textures and details are amazing in their quality, and other than a couple scenes that seem to be a bit off in contrast, the picture itself is just stunning.  The soundtrack is similar with very good use of the surrounds and clear, intelligible dialogue throughout the film.  Really it is a spectacular looking and sounding film.

Extras

Audio commentary from the director, cast, and crew, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, TV spots, and featurettes on Shakespeare on Film and the costumes in the film.