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Shakespeare in Love

As the theaters of 16th Century London have been closed by the plague, struggling playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) believes that he has lost his "muse," unable to create anything more than the title for his non-existent play Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Separated from his wife, he drinks, dodges his responsibilities, and has affairs with several women, until he happens upon Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), a young lady who loves the theater but cannot be an actor because she is a woman, and thus adopts the garb of a boy to join Shakespeare's company. Their subsequent romance plays tongue-in-cheek like one of the Bard's comedies, with the illicit lovers masquerading as members of the opposite sex to further their affair while Lord Wessex (Colin Firth), Viola's suitor, tries to determine who has "plucked" his bride-to-be. With a history-bending script by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard that overflows with in-jokes for Shakespeare fans and theater buffs, Shakespeare in Love slipped out of the 1999 Academy Awards with seven statuettes, including the one for Best Picture, beating out Saving Private Ryan, which, for all its merits, didn't muster the accessible, crowd-pleasing quality that Academy voters like. The supporting cast includes such favorites as Geoffrey Rush, Simon Callow, Ben Affleck, Rupert Everett, and Judi Dench, who, as Queen Elizabeth, snagged the Best Supporting Actress award (although she is only on screen for about eight minutes). This Buena Vista DVD of the Universal/Miramax co-production is a gorgeous edition, with an anamorphic transfer that offers fabulous color and detail. Extras on this Collector's Series edition include two commentary tracks (one with director John Madden, the other with the cast and crew), the 20-minute "behind-the-scenes" documentary "Shakepeare in Love, and on Film," a brief feature on the costume design, and textual supplements. Keep-case.

(Editor's note: Shakespeare in Love is also available in a movie-only edition at a lower price.)

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