Young Shakespeare is forced to stage his latest comedy, "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter," before it's even written. When a lovely noblewoman auditions for a role, they fall into forbidden love -- and his play finds a new life (and title). As their relationship progresses, Shakespeare's comedy soon transforms into tragedy.
A witty, sexy and merrily literate delight, with an exhilaratingly clever premise that only gets better as the film unfolds. The screenplay, originating as Marc Norman's brainstorm and turned by Tom Stoppard into razor-sharp dialogue reminiscent of his "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," dares to imagine whatever it likes about the link between Shakespeare's artistic passions and his mad yearning for a certain aristocratic beauty. Meanwhile, this tirelessly inventive comedy envisions an Elizabethan theater fraught with the same backbiting and conniving we enjoy today and has great fun presenting the creation of "Romeo and Juliet," glitches and all. Ralph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow make a fine, tempestuous duo, and she gives the first great, fully realized starring performance of her career. — Janet Maslin
1998-12-11 | Janet Maslin | Read the New York Times Review of Shakespeare in Love