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4.4 out of 5 stars141
4.4 out of 5 stars
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In 2003 (and at considerable expense) I bought the 'Superbit' DVD of this wonderful film to get the best picture quality I could and it was far better than the standard DVD version (even though it didn't have the extras the standard DVD did). But this January 2011 BLU RAY reissue with its superlative picture quality AND nicely complimentary extras - trumps all previous formats. And at less than ten quid, it's reasonably priced too. But to the details first...

Originally released into cinemas in early 1999, "Shakespeare In Love" was nominated for a whopping 13 Academy Awards and went on to win 7 - Best Picture, Best Leading and Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Set Design, Costumes and Music. So many things came together on this film - the inspired casting of Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes as Viola De Lessops and William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Rush as the permanently living-on-the-edge theatre owner Philip Henslowe (his dialogue titles this review), Colin Firth as the dastardly and arrogant Lord Wessex (wittily refers to life in 1593 as "Dallas in frocks"), right down to the ordinary-people emotion of Imelda Staunton who is superb as Viola's nurse. In fact the entire ensemble cast (Tom Wilkinson, Martin Clunes, Rupert Everett, Jim Carter and Simon Callow) are all superlative and add hugely to its overall classy feel. There's John Madden's assured direction (he did "Mrs. Brown"), the beautifully evocative score by Steven Warbeck, the 17 fully reconstructed buildings and two theatres created by the Production teams and of course the movie's true ace-in-the-hole - the stunning screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman which successfully emulates the bard's genius while at the same time making him real and human to us. Back in late 2007 I posted a List in Listmania on Amazon UK called "25 Movie Dialogues You Must Hear Before You Die" - and number 6 is the scene where Paltrow talks of love to her nursemaid as she readies for bed ("...love that will overthrow mountains...come ruin or rapture...") - it's sensational stuff and in modern-day speak equal to the bard himself (no mean feat).

ASPECT/PICTURE QUALITY:
This Blu Ray's default setting is 2:35 aspect (puts borders on the top and bottom of the screen automatically), but I found taking it to full-screen on my Sony didn't distort or stretch the image too much - if at all. But the real deal here is the picture quality itself - which is never less than brilliant and at times truly beautiful. The most obvious and immediately noticeable thing is the costumes. There's a scene where the 'players' are finally staging "Romeo And Juliet" in front of a rapt audience at 'The Curtain' - it cuts to Colin Firth hanging from the rafters watching his new wife play Juliet and then cuts to Joseph Fiennes as Romeo on the stage opposite Paltrow - the colours in their clothes is just awesome. Even on the indoor scenes, the lighting is fabulous - little or no blocking - a hugely enjoyable experience.

Niggles - the extras are essentially the same as the DVD - the 20-minute 'Making Of' is particularly good and includes interviews with all the key people behind the camera and in front of it (as well as other actors already mentioned, Judy Dench and Ben Affleck are also included), but it's a shame there wasn't more dug out for this reissue - it deserved it. A minor point, but one worth making...

This BLU RAY reissue of "Shakespeare In Love" is a triumph - a romantic, funny and hugely uplifting film finally given a chance to shine - and with a gorgeous print.

In the words of the great man himself (from Sonnet 18):
"So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee..."

BLU RAY Credits:
VIDEO: Full 1080p High Definition Widescreen Transfer - 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
The "My Scenes" function allows the viewer to pinpoint a part of the movie you particularly like by pressing the Green button on your remote for the start and the Blue button to end it (only as it is playing). It will create a library of scenes for you to re-watch later...
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French, Italian, German, Spanish (Castellano) and Japanese DTS-HD 5.1
SUBTITLES: English SDH (Deaf and Hard-Of-Hearing), French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Icelandic, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish and Traditional Mandarin

BONUS Material:
* Making Of Documentary: "Shakespeare In Love And On Film"
* Feature Length Commentary by Director John Madden
* Feature Length Commentary by Cast And Crew
* Theatrical Trailer
* 21 TV Spots
* Academy Award Winning Costumes
* Deleted Scenes
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on 20 April 2000
Stoppard certainly knows what he's about: The plot is delightful and the references elegant, clever parodies if you spot them or inconspicuous parts of the plot if you don't. And the references are on all levels: to Shakespeares plays, his unknown life and the many theories that have been made about it, and his writer and actor collegues. Normally I'd hate "the person behind the genius-films" because they miss the point that it's precisely the work, not the person, that's interesting. However, this is not so much a film about Shakespeare as a story in its own right. There is no temptation to believe that "this is really how it was" and yet the information is so true to the period that even specialists need not be annoyed by uninformed inconsistencies. It's a cornucopia of Shakespearian wit!
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on 28 September 2007
I watched this movie not really expecting all that much from it I must admit, yes it had some big names (most notably in my opinion Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth) but apart from that it did seem to have little else that I would enjoy so I was most surprised with what it was. Yes the acting from some of them could have been better but it is still an amazing movie. It has the right mix of comedy ("Where's the dog?"), drama and romance... and that is without including the snippets of 'Romeo and Juliet' that are scattered throughout the piece and which i will also say are superbly used to add to the atmosphere.

Throughout the movie you are invited numerous times to experience the characters feelings and even I managed to feel sorry for 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' (aka. Shakespeare and Viola). My main problem with the movie is Queen Victoria (superbly acted by Dench) whose disposition seems to alter a bit too much.

I would most definitely recommend this movie to those people who can ignore the acting and just get swept up in the passion of the movie.
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Well actually, this film stands on its own. Who knows this could be the way it happened or should have happened. Writer Tom Stoppard takes a few liberties with reality and time to bring you the "True" story behind Shakespeare's genius, which would never have surfaced if it were not for love, friendship, tragedy, and a Virgin Queen.

Young Shakespeare has writers block. Then he meets and falls in love with Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) the daughter of a nobleman, Viola on the other hand is interested in the forbidden fruit of acting.

This film is set with one-liners and many witty inferences as each character plays off of the other. We almost had the play "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter". My favorite line is when Philip Henslowe: The show must... you know... William Shakespeare: [prompting him] Go on!

Do not miss Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth. Her few appearances add spice to the film.

Judi Dench as Titania in Midsummer Night's Dream (1968)
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on 19 December 2008
Avon Bard Joe Fiennes gets hots for Ethel the Pirate's daughter, who is a girl playing a boy playing a girl - sort of Julian Clary in drag. She (Paltrow) however, whilst idolizing Master Shakespeare, is betrothed to big-shot baccy-owner and general bad odour Colin Firth, to be whisked off to the New World - Milton Keynes. Bard uses girl as his muse - the next line was deleted - and Geoffrey Rush gets his toasted shoes back before Queen Judi rumbles the lot of `em and sends girl packing to Virginia. She should have taken the train because the ship sinks. Love's labours lost. But all's well that ends well: how? - it's a mystery. Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard's clever plotline must have looked like a plate of spaghetti, brilliantly trapping little tell-tale Shakespeare-isms in the dialogue; Stephen Warbeck's music lifts the hairs on your neck and draws the lovers together. Master Rush goes off to find Aphrodite Baggett who does it behind the Dog and Crumpet. Best film of the 90s.
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on 24 November 2011
.................absolute gold dust.
A charming and endearing comedy drama. Life imitates art as the eponymous bard stuggles to find his inspiration.......usually his 'muse' Aphrodite, who does it behind the Dog & Trumpet. But ultimately finding it in the form of Viola Delessops(living goddess Gwyneth Paltrow).
Shakespeare is truly brought to life via an accessible, funny and well paced screenplay. And energized by a memorable turn from Joseph Fiennes.
I was a little irritated by a rather unnessesary, fauning camera shot of Gwyneth. She's well capable of appearing angelic while picking her nose or scratching her bottom. And Ben Affleck, rather shoe horned into his role, is less effective.
SEE!!!! Colin Firth being a total git.
SEE!!!! Dame Judy get the cheapest Oscar in movie history.
and....Geoffrey Rush gets his feet barbequed.
A really, really, really enjoyable movie.
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on 25 June 2008
This film will change your whole perspective on love. It has the ability to move you to both laughter and tears, and that reason alone places it in my top five of all time.

The acting is superb, as is the set design, choreography, script and costume. This film is packed with talent in the actors; Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow are brilliant throughout. But I love it when a film has not so big characters, yet the actors who play them make them their own and really make the most of it. Examples in this film would include Martin Clunes, Simon Callow, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Affleck, Colin Firth and above all Judi Dench.

I could rant on all day about the beauty of the script and the way in which Shakespeare is so characterised.

A film to see much sooner than your dying day.
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on 18 June 2007
What can you say about this film that hasn't already been said? Nothing, its absolutely brilliant, I noticed that someone gave it one star previously. Idiot. You do not have to have an intimate knowledge of The Bard to enjoy this film, a modicum of intelligence is useful but really anyone could & should enjoy this film. Its funny, witty, beautifully written & the acting is superb throughout, especially Tom Wilkinson who to be fair is brilliant in anything he is in anyway. Its also incredibly uplifting & the final scenes with Gwyneth Paltrow walking across the beach to the words of Twelth Night whilst Stephen Warbeck's incredible score grows ever louder in the background, never fail to inspire & move me to tears. A wondrous, wondrous film!
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on 18 June 2013
You don`t need to be intimate with Shakespears output, but it certainly helps as there are many quotes, mini backgrouond scenes and characters to be found.
You don`t need to even like Shakespear to enjoy this film - but it would help or may even lead to to delve further into his artistry..
This films main conceit is that Shakespeare in London, has writers block. He also has creditors, and other playwrights to worry about, and he doesn`t quite know what to do about it all. He has the beginnings of new plays, but just can`t seem to get them going. Meanwhile the heroine is a young unmarried lady from a wealthy family who loves the theater - not a good attribute for any Tudor suite/man to consider - and desires to take part in a play (totally forbidden by the Laws of the time - all female parts were played by young boys in that period).
Under pressure from his very successful competitor Christopher Marlow and the people he owes money to, Shakespear hurridly starts his new play without any idea what he will come up with, assembling a cast and making it up rather ameturistically on the way. The wayward heroine, desperate to become a `player` drags up to look like a boy and presents herself at audition, and gets the part of Shakespeares latest heroine! Shakespeare feels uncomfortably aware that there is something very likeable about this new player . . . he is falling in love!
You all know what is going to happen next don`t you. Well it is drawn out in a very refreshing way, and developes like Shakespears Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet, inspiring him to write this play from his own experience. But it must all turn out badly, as there is no future for the lovers - a case of life imitating art?
Sumptuously filmed (glorious colour pallette) superb sound, clear witty dialogue, superb writing throughout the cast all extremel;y well played all the way down to bit parts, this is superb cinema.
I defy anyone who sees this not to laugh out loud, or shed a tear at some points throughout this film.
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on 26 March 2013
It is a brave thing to attempt to portray any aspect a figure so revered and disdained by the world, but I think this film just about carries off its entertainment value.

The plot itself has almost no basis in fact. Which I love. Immediately I don't feel like I have to take notes and learn more about his use of metaphor and iambic pentameter. Then again, a lot of what we actually know about Shakespeare is conjecture, so why not have some fun with it?

And fun is exactly what this movie does with Shakespeare's life. You no longer see him on a pedestal, but as a penniless writer trying to please all walks of Elizabethan society. Joseph Fiennes is quirky and cocky as Shakespeare, full of passion and promise, while Gwyneth Paltrow is his doomed-to-marry-Colin-Firth love interest (poor thing), whose innocent bravery and concealed love of literature staves off his writing block.

This film is particularly satisfying if you have studied any Shakespeare, particularly Romeo and Juliet, as many light-hearted references will make you chuckle, while the fervent and ill-fated romance between the two leads echo this. Tom Stoppard's obscure literary references are often lost on the audience, but if you pay them heed they become cleverly satisfying. I also think a stunningly good job has been done to portray Elizabethan entertainment- from a young boy playing Juliet to the course hilarity of a "bit with a dog". Judi Dench blew me away as Elizabeth I, deservedly winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress after only about 8 minutes of screen-time! Now that's what I call presence.

And while at times it becomes a little smothered by its own indulgence, it's worth a watch - fantastic for those who like to feel a smug when they recognise a literary reference.
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