While not horrible, 'Shakespeare in Love' swept the Academys and brought an enormous following that seemed less like fanfare and more like a religion. Like sci-fi spectacles, such as 'Star Wars' and 'Lord of the Rings', fans of this film seem to take any criticism of it as personal, or worse will question your historical and/or cultural knowledge based upon your enjoyment of this film.
I enjoy the works of William Shakespeare, well most of it. I'm a big fan of 'Twelfth Night', 'A Midsummer Nights Dream', 'Hamlet', and 'Henry V'. 'Romeo and Juliet'; however, is one of my least favorite of his plays. It actually ranks as low as 'A Comedy of Errors' in my book. That being said a movie based upon the creation of his most famous penning of star crossed lovers seemed to be a silly concept.
The main problem I have with the movie is that it was a comedy that is not funny. When sitting in the theatre watching the movie I kept trying to imagine if the main character wasn't Shakespeare would people still be laughing? Would humor this corny work in any other period piece? While the attempts at humor were cute they never produced a laugh out loud chuckle. The famous English playwrite nancied about writing down lines he heard on the street and I waited for a stage hand to pop onto the screen with a sign that said "Laugh people. This is really clever." Gags of mistaken identity were induced, but instead of using the comic timing of 'Twelfth Night' the screenwriters borrowed from the inferior 'A Comedy of Errors'.
'Shakespeare in Love' is entertaining; however it's not great. The furious pacing of the beginning was a little much only to have the film slow way down during it's overdone ending. Characters waxed philosophic at times which were supposed to be profound, but it felt shallow and forced.
This is not to say it didn't have it's high points. Some of the acting was good as well as the look of the period was captured with great authenticity.
After the release of the film Mirimax studios went on a media blitz promoting the acting of Paltrow and Fiennes and praising this movie above superior Best Picture nominated films such as 'Elizabeth'. Actually it was a pretty weak year for Best Picture nominees, but still it's hard to imagine this film in the same camp as 'The Godfather'.
Shakespeare in Love trailer:
"Result resembles one of Neil Simon's middlebrow romps more than it does 'As You Like It'." - Laura Miller