My current Top 5

My current Top 5

5/26/2010

Best Actress 1998: Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love"

In the recent years of the Academy Awards, women have usually won Oscars for playing suffering women – it doesn’t matter if they suffer from disease, from society or other things as long as they get some breakdowns and show a lot of tears. And it surely doesn’t hurt if these women are unattractive (but of course only in the movie!). But obviously there are always some exceptions to these rules. One of those is Gwyneth Paltrow’s win for the romantic comedy Shakespeare in Love in which she shows that an actress can be a radiant beauty, full of passion and love for 2 hours and still give a remarkable performance.

Gwyneth Paltrow played Viola de Lesseps, a young woman who loves poetry and the theatre and wants nothing more than being an actress on the stage. But since it is not allowed for women to appear on the stage during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, she has to disguise herself as a man to appear in William Shakespeare’s newest play, ‘Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter’.

Shakespeare in Love is a little miracle of a movie, a hopelessly romantic and funny tale of the famous bard at the beginning of his career, suffering from a writer’s block. This story is brought to life by a wonderful cast down to the smallest parts but it’s Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as his muse and lover Viola who give the movie its heart and soul.

Gwyneth plays Viola with an irresistible mix of breathless inexperience and decided maturity. She shows that Viola has been dreaming of the stage and a different life for a long time. She possesses an inner fire in her character, a longing for the theatre. When she is shown in the audience, mouthing the words spoken on the stage with such a passionate look on her face, the viewers immediately know everything about this character. She finally decides to pose as a man but when her plans become reality, she shows a nervousness, a stage-fright, that explains that all this is very new but also very exciting for her. And even though Viola had only dreamed of poetry up to that moment, something different also enters her life when she meets William Shakespeare: love. It’s a romance that is so wonderful because it shows a love that develops. At the beginning, Gwyneth plays Viola as exited and stimulated, maybe even a little intimidated when she meets the man who writes her favourite poetry and she makes it never clear if this is really love or maybe just a naïve groupie who mistakes her admiration for love. But the passion between them soon turns into a truly magic but also tragic love that is unable to defy the conventions of their time.

Gwyneth Paltrow is very confident in her own beauty and charm and doesn’t waste any time to draw attention to it. Instead, she focuses on that inner fire in her character, her desires, her passion and mixes it with a childlike innocence thanks to her virginal beauty that shines during her whole performance. Seldom has an actress ever been so radiant and full of light like Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. It’s a typical star performance that rests on the actress’s own personality but Gwyneth Paltrow is smart enough to see the part’s depth and possibilities and how her character is the beginning and the end of the movie. She never tries to outact her other cast members but instead lets Joseph Fiennes, with whom she shares a wonderful chemistry, as the title character take centre stage but she also knows that Viola is the dominating force of the story – she ends Shakespeare’s writer’s block, she becomes his muse and his inspiration and when she leaves, she has changed him forever. But in the role of this muse, she is not passive – it’s not only her beauty that enchants Shakespeare but also her inner fire that Gwyneth Paltrow so wonderfully displays in Viola. She and Will share not only a love for each other, but also for the world of the players, the theatre. The love between them enables him to write and her to act. Viola’s desire to fulfil her dreams, her unconventional behaviour are just as memorable as her unique beauty.

Gwyneth shows that Viola is the more down-to-earth-character in the relationship. She wants to live in a world of poetry and love but she also knows her duties and that she can’t escape them. There is a certain sadness that always seems to exist beneath her glorious smile. Acting on the stage is not just a diversion for Viola, it’s her way of being free, of entering a world that she will never know. On the stage, she can escape these duties and her personal life. With Will Shakespeare and his plays, she finds something that is really meaningful to her but she also knows that like any dream, it cannot last. Her love for him may be never-ending, but she knows that her relationship to him isn’t.

Gwyneth Paltrow has wonderful control over her face and knows how to use a smile or a tear effectively in her close-ups. She has to create a character who symbolises passion and love, hope and dreams, honesty, innocence and purity, a woman who could believable inspire William Shakespeare to write his greatest works – and she succeeds with a very subtle and beaming performance that may not be a true tour-de-force but which is still a tricky and demanding work that makes all these tasks look easy. It is also remarkable how easy she is handling Shakespeare’s words. In her first and last performance onstage, her Juliet is a wonderful combination of both a woman losing her love and a woman pretending to be a woman losing her love. Knowing that her happiness cannot last makes her appearance as Juliet so moving. And the goodbye scene at the end is truly unforgettable. In these final scenes, it becomes obvious that in some ways, Viola is only a plot-device in this story – she has to inspire Shakespeare and now that she has done that, she can leave again. But Gwyneth Paltrow never allowed her character to be reduced but always kept turning her into a full-flesh human being.

As mentioned before, it’s no tour-de-force but Gwyneth Paltrow so completely makes this beaming and shining character her own that it is impossible to imagine anyone else in this part. In creating a character as romantic and charming as the movie she stars in, Gwyneth makes an unforgettable impression and creates a wonderfully passionate heroine. For this, she gets

12 comments:

Louis Morgan said...

I thought she was okay, but that is it.

Fritz said...

I didn't like her in the beginning either, but SIL is a movie that ages so fantastically and she is a big reason for that.

joe burns said...

I guess I should see her again...... liked it the first couple times, but found her to be very bad in clips I've watched around Youtube. My guess is that she'll second or third. Very strong writeup!

Fritz said...

Thanks, Joe!

Malcolm said...

Maybe she'll be the runner-up for Balnchett. But I hope she gets the top!

joe burns said...

Is there any year from the 80's that's possible? That's the only decade you haven't done, except for the 20's.

Fritz said...

Thanks for the info, Sage!

About the 80s: Maybe I could do 1988...I have to see about Sigourney.

joe burns said...

And could you do Fernanda Montegoro next?

Sage Slowdive said...

1937 is possible by Youtube, too Fritz.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Even though Cate gets the win for me, I will not deny that I find Gwyneth to be most excellent here. All her tics work for the role and she is just resplendent...and those line readings "This is not life Will, it's a stole season." God, she's amazing here.

Fritz said...

I am amazed by the love for Gwyneth here because mostly she gets a lot of hate on the Internet!

And Sage, do you have a link for Stella Dallas? I can't find it...

Sage Slowdive said...

Ooops, never mind, I guess Youtube has already taken it down.