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Imagine this - William Shakespeare gets writer's block. Did the thought ever occur to you prior to this? Doubtful. Actually, except for perhaps comic relief in some other sort of film, has anyone ever portrayed the life of William Shakespeare? Also Doubtful. This one stars Joseph Fiennes as The Bard, who has to come up with a new play to save the life of his theater's owner, due to outstanding debt. This film also focuses on (*gasp*) Gwyneth Paltrow, a woman stricken with amorous thoughts of our man Bill. Judi Densch lends credibility and respect to this otherwise romantic comedy.
First of all, Gwyneth disguises herself as a man, so she can audition for a part in the play Romeo and Juliet. Did anyone feel convinced she could pass as a man? Certainly not me, so you have to have a little suspension of disbelief to get into this movie (don't worry, I did). Also, as she herself said, Judi Densch did not deserve the Oscar for being in this film for less than 8 minutes of screen time. True, her performance is good, but come on...
Sprinkled through this film are too many attempts to make cliches out of many of Shakespeare's famous moments (or at least hint at them) by having people around him say things that resemble the most famous lines from his plays. Again, you go with it, provided your disbelief is still suspended.
Nevertheless, there are moments where the movie comes alive, such as a scene where the overbearing moneylender comes to the realization that the play he's watching evolve will be something greater than just the randy farce he was led to believe it would be. This scene is the sort of thing that makes me come back to the movies again and again - the ability to show something more than just the words in the script, or people wearing costumes, or any other aspect of moviemaking. Nicely done, John Madden (the director, not the football commentator (they are different people, right?))
Geoffrey Rush, who plays the playhouse owner/manager, demonstrates he can play comedy, which is something I wouldn't expect from someone like him, given the roles he's played in the past (such as in the sister film to this one - Elizabeth)