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Shakespeare in Love

Movie Information

In Brief: As a rule, few things age less gracefully than an old Oscar winner, but this historical romp has held up as a truly pleasant diversion. It's kind of a bittersweet romantic comedy in historical drag. The film puts forth the story of how Shakespeare's proposed play Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter became something more substantial — with a better title and no pirates — thanks to his blossoming romance with a local actor (Gwyneth Paltrow). Its view of Shakespeare is probably not a great deal more preposterous than Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, come to that.
Genre: Shaggy Historical Romance Comedy
Director: John Madden (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench
Rated: R

When I first saw Shakespeare in Love in 1998, I was entertained, charmed and, in general, had a good time at the movies. Since then my hand has hovered over the title countless times in DVD bins. I’ve been on the point of buying it more times than I care to think about, but something always holds me back. Now, encountering the film a second time for this screening, I know why. It’s a film that — for all its charms — just doesn’t require, at least for me, a second viewing. The charm of its shaggy Shakespeare story is still there. The whole premise of Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) turning a bad idea for a bad play called Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter into a certain well-known work with a slightly altered title by virtue of his own ill-fated romance is still a cheeky conceit. The performances — especially Geoffrey Rush as a much put-upon theatrical impresario — are terrific. Tom Stoppard’s dialogue and John Madden’s direction still sparkle. But the freshness of the experience has gone, at least for me, and nothing that remains quite lives up to that. If you’ve never seen it, you should. If you have… well, your second look may yield dividends mine didn’t.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Shakespeare in Love Sunday, June 30, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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