SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE

Directed by John Madden

Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard

With Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench and Ben Affleck

Distributed by Miramax

*1/2


The combination of British accents, period costumes and literary pretensions often sends me directly into REM state; consequently, I usually don't even bother going to see films like SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. I didn't have particularly high hopes for it, but the largely positive reviews it's received, even from the usually cynical critics like the NEW YORK PRESS' Godfrey Cheshire, led me to expect an enjoyable farce. Even on that level, the film is a failure. Not only doesn't it offer much insight into Shakespeare's life, times or work (it's permeated with the kind of romanticism that thinks he could only get motivated to finish ROMEO & JULIET by falling in love), it doesn't even make two hours pass pleasantly. Madden's direction and Norman and Stoddard's look-Ma-I'm-so-clever dialogue lack the light touch necessary for making this kind of fluff succeed. Ben Affleck and Judi Dench contribute fine supporting performances, and the film does have a few amusing moments, but these are scattered over a plodding two hours. The raucous trailer for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE makes it look awful, and while it misrepresents the film's tone (as we've come to expect from Miramax trailers and video boxes), it conveys the film's level of quality pretty accurately.