Shakespeare in Love: What a shitty movie

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!

Show Summary

Overall Thoughts: Fake feminism, fake love, too indulgent

M: The only reason we chose this is because it won the Oscar for best picture. Harvey Weinstein is an asshole who bullied people in the Academy into badmouthing Saving Private Ryan and voting for Shakespeare in Love. Weinstein also represents everything that is wrong with the world today. Only feminist on the surface. 

B: I reserved judgment before watching it; I didn’t like it. Artificially upbeat. Artificially feminist. This is an actor’s movie, and it appeals to Hollywood, so of course they loved it. Felt like the Louis C.K. scandal, like Hollywood was masturbating and making me watch. Not an English major movie.

Like: Something about costume design, this movie sucks

M: Structure is kind of smart. Unfortunately, it sucked. Set design, art design were good.

B: Costume and set design were amazing. Really did feel like Elizabethan era Great Britain. Actual production of Romeo and Juliet was pretty well-done.

Dislike: Gwyneth Paltrow’s boobs wrote the play, ignores the tragedy aspects of the play, this movie sucks

M: They just quote the play for 10 minutes while showing Gwyneth Paltrow’s boobs. Disorganized. Everything is fake and over-the-top. Did not age well. I don’t like Shakespeare. No women unless they’re pleasing a man. Tries to make a statement about feminism, but doesn’t do it. 

B: This character was not William Shakespeare. The portrayal of creative genius and the creative process was highly romanticized and insulted the real Shakespeare. He sleeps with Viola and pulls the entire play out of his ass overnight. Wipes its ass with historical facts. Romeo and Juliet was not an original play; an Italian play was brought to England 32 years before Shakespeare’s play. The whole point of the play is that it’s a tragedy, and this film tried to make it into a romantic love story. The play is actually very cynical about love.

Mental Health: Women’s issue aren’t that simple, love at first site is actually hormones

M: Can everything be cured by having sex? No. That’s not the creative process. Also, really superficially deals with women’s issues. She’s shown as rebellious, but conforms in the end.

B: Surprise surprise—love at first sight is actually just physical attraction. Couples in love for a long time can romanticize their first meeting to create the illusion of love at first sight to add meaning to the current relationship (motivated cognition). If Viola didn’t feel the same way about Will, this would be a horror film. Men are more likely than women to claim it was love at first sight. Physically attractive people are significantly more likely to describe their first encounter as “love at first sight.”


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.”

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