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The 100




Shakespeare In Love
(1999)
Reviewed by Jenny LeComte
Rating: 4 Beans

hey used to hand out Best Actress Oscars to real actresses. Women who lit up the
silver screen with their style, glamour and class, like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
Women who could play ballsy, kick-ass roles like Jodie Foster and Katherine Hepburn.
Women who could scare the crap out of you, like Kathy Bates or Louise Fletcher.
Women who, like Meryl Streep, can actually act.
As the insipid and pink-frocked Gwyneth Paltrow stood on the podium at the Dorothy
Chandler Pavillion, clutching her statuette and gushing fake tears as she thanked
everyone from her deceased grand-dad to her dog, I thought to myself: “Hell’s bells,
what is the world coming to?” Prior to this moment, I thought Gwynnie’s finest acting
role to date was when her head ended up in a box in “Seven”. This is not a woman
who lights up the big screen for me. Or even the small screen. Trying to get Gwynnie
to light up anything would be like trying to melt the polar ice cap with a match. Take
her Oscar-winning role in “Shakespeare in Love”, for instance. I fail to see what acting
ability was required apart from the ability to change in and out of wigs at short notice,
memorise yards of Shakespeare, adopt a believable British accent and pretend to be in
lust with Joseph Fiennes. The last requirement was probably the most challenging for
La Paltrow seeing as Fiennes has got the sex appeal of a leaky toilet. I like a nice,
rugged leading man. Somebody like Harrison Ford or Antonio Banderas. Not some
effeminate ponce whose wrists you could snap in half. Girls, could you imagine Joseph
Fiennes helping you put up shelves or beating burglars over the head with a
breadboard? The love scenes between him and Paltrow didn’t sizzle so much as fizzle.
Ever tried to light fireworks after they’ve been soaking in the bath for a couple of
hours? Then you’d get my meaning. I suppose the attraction between William
Shakespeare (Fiennes) and Viola (Paltrow) wasn’t just based on sex. She was his muse
after all. The woman who stirred young Will intellectually and enabled him to write
“Romeo and Juliet”, a tragic tale of star crossed lovers, a war between two rival
families in fair Verona. A story which Aussie director Baz Luhrmann made a mighty
fine movie about. The Dolce & Gabbana costumes. The funky soundtrack. The
fantastic sets. The fine acting. That, my friends, is what modern Shakespeare films
should be about. When I saw the Luhrmann film, I was blown away. When I saw
“Shakespeare In Love”, I was bored to tears. The period costumes and re-enactments
of merry olde English villages were all very fine and jolly. And the English themselves
were very fine and jolly in those days, too, with the Great Fire of London and the black
plague just around the corner. However, I could have done without the little “in”
jokes. They might make a Shakespearean scholar or inner city try-hard slap their legs
with mirth, but I failed to see the humour. The acting itself was also dry and
humourless. If you took a video camera into an amateur theatre workshop and told the
actors to “be themselves”, you’d get much more amusing footage. In “Shakespeare In
Love”, I never - not once for a moment - believed that Paltrow, Fiennes and the rest of
their merry band were anything but actors playing parts and getting paid for it. About
the only actor not doing a tree impersonation was Geoffrey Rush, but his role as an
eccentric theatre owner was so small that if you farted, you missed it. “Shakespeare In
Love” was a nice enough movie, I suppose. Nice storyline. Nice costumes. Nice sets.
But Oscar-winning movies aren’t supposed to be nice. They’re supposed to be
challenging and memorable. You’re not meant to walk out of the cinema and have the
following conversation.
Me: “Well, guys, what did you think of the movie?”
Friend One (shrugging bored shoulders): “All right I s’pose.”
Friend Two: “Anyone want a pizza?”
Oscars are meant to go to good actors. People who absorb roles with every fibre of
their being and make you believe in it, too. Think Meryl Streep in “Silkwood”. She
was Karen Silkwood, nuclear waste martyr, not Meryl Streep, highly paid Hollywood
actress. Same with Jodie Foster in “The Accused”. Her portrayal of Sarah Tobias, the
party girl who was gang raped in a bar then made to go on trial herself, was so real
that it made me cry. Which brings me back to Gwynnie. How the hell did she get
nominated?


Other reviews for this movie:

Nathan Johnston




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