Intro by Brandon
Sometimes, a movie comes along that takes something so familiar, maybe even dry and tired, and breathes new life into it to create something truly magical. Today, we’re taking a look at Shakespeare in Love, and it is actually not that thing I just described—although it really tried to be! This is a film that tried to capture the crazy love in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, but then also tell a parallel story of Shakespeare himself falling in love with a woman named Viola. It’s a romantic comedy in every sense of the word, and it drops many references to Shakespeare’s works along the way.
But, first off, what are these two cynical hipsters doing watching this romantic comedy about the triumph of love in the face of adversity? Well, spoiler alert: not enjoying it. We actually didn’t pick this one—the Academy did. This was the Best Picture winner for 1998, and we talk a bit about why the Academy chose this particular film in the upcoming episode.
This is a film based on the premise that romance, true deep romance, causes people to completely lose their minds and do stupid things for love. This is actually pretty close to Shakespeare’s original play, which is a tragedy. But this film is a romantic comedy and shows that in a positive light. Did it work? Well, I don’t want to give the whole episode away, but, in a word, no.
There’s a line in the film that resonated with me: “Wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” Will and Viola argue in bed over whose line that is, but it really belongs to the audience. Yes, this film did leave me so unsatisfied. There are people who disagree with us—this film garnered a 92% critic score and an 80% audience score on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes—but both of us have some pretty strong feelings on why we don’t like the film. So, a word of warning to any fans of this film who may happen to be listening to this episode: we are about to take a huge shit all over this movie.
So break out the sonnets, conjure up your inner bard, and get ready for a very heated episode of Peculiar Picture Show, the podcast that talks about movies, maladies, and mental health!
M: “Harvey Weinstein is an asshole. Since then, we know that he’s a creepy, disgusting—he’s, like, what is wrong with the world today. We could sum it all up with Harvey Weinstein: privileged asshole who believes he deserves to touch every woman”
M: “I think a lot of the movie is like, ‘Ooh, feminism!’ but only on the surface. It was such a surface thing.”
B: “This film felt like it was a lot of fun for everybody on the other side of the camera. It tried very hard to be impressive, to create dramatic tension in scenes, it tried to create impressive acting. … It’s an actor’s movie. It felt a little like the Louis C.K. scandal, like Hollywood was masturbating and making me watch.”
M: “There’s, like, 30 minutes straight of Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes having sex and then quoting the play.”
M: “There’s no women in this film unless they’re pleasing a man. Judy Dench and Gwyneth Paltrow are the only two real female characters. … I think it’s trying to be that movie that makes a statement about femininity and feminism, but it doesn’t at all.”
B: “One of the biggest lies surrounding creativity is that it requires a spark of inspiration. I used to work in advertising and that is such bullshit, because you have to get things done on a deadline. If anybody is going to know how to be creative on a deadline, it’s going to be William Shakespeare. There’s this belief that creativity is kind of like guessing a password or finding a key, and that’s kind of the basis of this whole movie.”
B: “Romeo and Juliet is not a love story, it’s about two young people approaching dangerous levels of horniness and doing stupid things because they have no life experiences. … What this film does is it takes these stupid things that young people do for love, but now we’re going to have two 30-year-olds act them out. It’s not cute anymore, William, it’s irresponsible.”