Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA/United Kingdom, 1998. Universal Pictures, Miramax, The Bedford Falls Company. Screenplay by Marc Norman, Tom Stoppard. Cinematography by Richard Greatrex. Produced by Donna Gigliotti, Marc Norman, David Parfitt, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick. Music by Stephen Warbeck. Production Design by Martin Childs. Costume Design by Sandy Powell. Film Editing by David Gamble. Academy Awards 1998. Golden Globe Awards 1998. National Board of Review Awards 1998. New York Film Critics Awards 1998.
Struggling playwright William Shakespeare (a rich performance by Joseph Fiennes) is having writers’ block while trying to create his latest comedy Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate’s Daughter. Enter muse Gwyneth Paltrow, a betrothed young lady who longs to act upon the stage despite its being illegal for women in 16th-century England. She beats the system by disguising herself as a boy, and upon revelation of her true sex romances the writer and defies convention while putting off her unavoidable marriage to an unlikeable prig (Colin Firth, once again losing a woman to a Fiennes brother). Brilliantly delivered dialogue and lovable references to the world of collaborative theatre are what make this liberally historical romance so special, while Judi Dench‘s few moments as the iron-willed Queen Elizabeth I make the movie come alive. Ben Affleck is hilarious as an actor in the bard’s theatrical troupe, and Paltrow has never been more fetching or impressive.