Shakespeare in Love (**** ½) - What a terrific concept for a movie. Just as You’ve Got Mail kept a smile on my face for two hours - this one went even further with an original idea and a ton of wit. The thing about this movie is the more knowledge you have about Shakespeare and his plays, the more you’ll enjoy it. Although I believe I got most of the references, I’m sure there might be one or two that I missed.The film is truly Shakespearean in nature but with a modern flavor that should make it easier to swallow for most audiences. All the performances are terrific, most notably the two leads Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow who is, dare I say the word, absolutely fetching. Screw that word. How about enchanting? Beautiful? Mesmerizing? Breathtaking? How about Hot? Oh - screw it. I wanted to do her. Pardon my bluntness and humor, but it’s true. Geoffrey Rush also displays his best performance in a supporting role that I enjoyed a hundred times more than his Oscar-winning role in Shine. And Ben Affleck is terrific in a small role as an ego-induced actor who winds up playing Mercutio, and being made to believe it’s the actual title of the play. This is a film that every teenage girl who saw and loved the wretched MTV-style version of Romeo and Juliet should be forced to see a la Clockwork Orange-style. Here is a film that pays not only great homage to the writer of that masterpiece but to the actual play itself. The scenes where they actually act out the play, especially at the end, have a magical quality to them that is a true homage to the written word of Shakespeare. There are so many subtle layers to this film that I could talk about it for hours, but I won’t so as to allow you to discover them for yourself. I will say that it was so refreshing to see a period piece like this after the overrated Elizabeth. A colleague of mine whom I saw the film with said that Judi Dench’s 10-minute performance as the older Queen Elizabeth was much better written, acted, and carried more emotion with it than the entire Cate Blanchett performance in Elizabeth. And I’d have to agree.This is an extraordinarily funny film, one of the best romances of the year, and wonderfully original. One of the year’s best.