Shakespeare In Love appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not stellar, the image mostly satisfied.
Sharpness worked well, as only a smidgen of softness ever interfered with the presentation. The majority of the flick seemed well-defined and concise.
No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I noticed only mild edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent.
Colors seemed positive. The movie offered a broad palette and the hues seemed pretty lively and lush.
Blacks were dark and tight, while low-light shots gave us good delineation. The image didn’t excel but it pleased.
As one might expect from a character-driven comedy/romance, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield seemed modest, with little emphasis on creating much of an effect. The forward soundstage appeared pretty good, as a fair amount of ambient material emanated from the sides, and the movie's score also took advantage of the stereo sound.
The rear speakers were used consistently but lightly. I thought a noticed maybe one or two actual effects that came strongly from the surrounds, but for the most part they gently bolstered the music and ambience.
Audio quality was fine. Speech appeared concise and natural, and effects showed adequate clarity and range.
Music also seemed fairly full and rich. With its limited scope, this ended up as a “B-“ soundtrack.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the Collector’s Edition DVD from 2000? Audio seemed warmer and fuller, while visuals were tighter, smoother and more concise. This became a clear upgrade.
The Blu-ray repeats most of the CE’s extras, and these launch with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director John Madden and gives us his running, screen-specific look at story/characters, sets and locations, music, editing, cinematography and related domains.
Overall, Madden provides a good but not great track. On the negative side, he tends to simply narrate the movie a little more than I’d like. Even with that, though, he provides a mostly informative overview of the production.
The second commentary comes from a huge group of participants. We hear from Madden, actors Ben Affleck, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Judi Dench, writers Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, costume designer Sandy Powell, producers Donna Gigliotti and David Parfitt, production designer Martin Childs, and cinematographer Richard Greatrex.
Recorded separately, the track edits the speakers together for a discussion of set design and costumes, locations, cast and performances, story and characters, music, Madden’s impact and related areas.
Though it occasionally tends toward praise, the track boasts a lot of solid information. This becomes a largely engaging view of the film that benefits from the myriad number of perspectives on display.
Next we find a 21-minute, 40-second featurette called Shakespeare In Love And On Film. It offers notes from Madden, Norman, Stoppard, Powell, Affleck, Dench, Fiennes, Rush, Paltrow, Firth, Childs, Parfitt, NYU adjunct professor Richard Horwich, and film critic Glenn Whipp.
“Film” looks at aspects of the movie’s creation as well as other cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. It’s a fairly superficial show but it comes with some interesting tidbits.
A compilation of deleted scenes fills a total of 10 minutes, 49 seconds. Actually, the final 40 seconds offer an inside joke discussed during the second audio commentary, so it’s not a “true” deleted scene.
Two of the others offer extended versions of existing segments. One shows more of the fight that takes place during rehearsal and it lasts about three minutes, 45 second.
The other runs one minute, 25 seconds and it expands upon the bar scene in which we meet Marlowe. The former is truly excessive and makes the scene dull, so it was justifiably removed, while the latter adds little since it barely differs from the final shot.
The main scene we find is the first, a four-minute, 50-second segment that provides an alternate ending. It goes from the point not long after the completion of the play all the way through what would be the start of the credits. While the ending they used probably works better, this one actually has some merits and might have been successful as well.
The two-minute, 27-second 1998 Academy Award-Winning Costumes provides a brief discussion of those outfits. We get notes from Madden and Powell as we learn about period costumes. Though fine on its own, “Costumes” feels redundant, as we hear most of the info elsewhere.
The disc opens with ads for The English Patient, Good Will Hunting, Cold Mountain and Serendipity. We also find the movie’s trailer and nine minutes, 47 seconds of TV spots.
Though Shakespeare in Love remains a rather light trifle with little real substance, it's still a fun, clever and well-made piece of work. It also stays entertaining over repeated viewings. The Blu-ray boasts fairly good picture and audio along with some informative bonus materials. I don’t know if it deserved Best Picture, but Love still becomes a quality movie.
To rate this film, visit the Collector's Edition review of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE