On Saturday, I was channel surfing and decided to take on the last third of Shakespeare in Love. Perhaps once and for all I could figure out if I really liked this movie or downright hated it. I can't quite put my finger on why I am so indecisive.
The film has many wonderful qualities: the historic references, Tom Stoppard's witty script, the lush art and costume design, and yet, when the film's title is mentioned in polite conversation, I cringe and regurgitate a little. Perhaps my response has to with Joseph Fiennes being prettier than Gweneth Paltrow, or Miramax's aggressive campaign to win the Oscar beating out Saving Private Ryan, or just maybe it's Geoffrey Rush's disgusting teeth. Whatever my misgivings, I decided to give it a go once again.
And immediately, I was hooked.
Sure, it's manipulative and at points cheesy, but so many of the pieces fit beautifully. And being a stage actor, I love that the central action centers around mounting the first performance of Romeo and Juliet. So, for now at least, I'm back to liking the film.
It was during the dueling scene, where Romeo slays Tybalt, when I heard Sebastian's feet running down the hall towards my room. This is not surprising. He flat out ignores me when I call him for dinner, but through a closed door he has the uncanny ability to make out the cinematic strains of a car chase, gun fight or shark attack. He then hightails it to my room in the hopes to sneak a peak at "adult TV." Of course, it's my job to quickly determine whether the program I happen to be watching is appropriate for his seven-year-old eyes and ears. Usually, I turn the television off, much to Sebastian's protestations, "I won't get scared, I promise," because like most Americans, I prefer my entertainment to be violent, salacious and nothing to do with Scooby Snacks.
Sebastian is a huge fan of the Star Wars films. He also loves Indiana Jones, super heroes and anything Jurassic. And true to his word, he doesn't get scared easily. This is the kid whose favorite part in Finding Nemo was the blood thirsty shark. While some parents would fast forward through the shark parts, at the behest of my son I'd play them over and over again.
I will admit, there have been instances where my judgement was lacking and I allowed Sebastian to watch something he probably shouldn't have. For instance, at the beginning of summer he was crazy about anything werewolf and he kept pestering me to watch a werewolf movie. I wracked my brain but couldn't think of anything until one day, in the TV listings, I saw An American Werewolf in Paris. Perfect, I thought. I had never seen it, but if it was anything like the first film, where that guy from the Dr. Pepper commercials ransacked London, I figured it would be gory, but funny gory. I warned Sebastian about the blood and guts and he insisted he wouldn't be scared. I foolishly took him at his word. He had nightmares all night.
Now before you parents chide me, know that I am very much aware of my mistake and have taken it down a couple of notches. No more CSI reruns, he's now only allowed episodes of Curious George.
So, Sebastian's feet were running towards my room and I had to decide if Shakespeare in Love was suitable for him. I quickly ran through what I remembered of the film and the only thing I found objectionable was the casting of Ben Affleck. I decided to let him watch.
He was enraptured. He had many questions about the story of Romeo and Juliet. And he wanted to know about Shakespeare and why women weren't allowed to perform in his day. I found it very educational actually.
It was at the climax of the film, where Gweneth Paltrow, who'd disguised herself as a man, was about to be exposed for being a woman, thus possibly shutting down Shakespeare's troupe forever, when out of the rafters, descending like a vampire bat came Queen Elizabeth I in the form of the formidable Dame Judi Dench.
Sebastian's jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide as if he'd seen the Crypt Keeper, and he said something like, "What the... I didn't know... Where did she... Oh, my God."
He was really taken aback. And then, as if the previous almost incoherent group of phrases didn't accurately describe how he felt, under his breath he uttered the multipurpose, "Shit!"
I didn't punish him for the curse word because, well, look at her...
Like Freddy Kruger, the Virgin Queen makes even my "seated heart knock at my ribs."