Winning the Oscar for Best Picture is the worst thing that ever happened to Shakespeare In Love.
Because instead of celebrating this quick-witted fictional tale of how young Will Shakespeare was inspired to write Romeo and Juliet, all any movie buff ever talks about is how (now convicted dirt bag) Harvey Weinstein’s full court press campaign for Shakespeare robbed the award from its rightful owner, Saving Private Ryan.
I’m not here to bag on Saving Private Ryan—without question it would’ve been a worthy winner. But the Academy did itself no shame by awarding its top honor to a film that smartly threads together romance, comedy, and drama in its Shakespearian love letter to the creative process.
Young Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) has no money and a case of intense writer’s block. He’s getting nowhere on his new play—a comedy he calls Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter.
Meanwhile, Lady Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow—whose Best Actress win had the haters blowing a second gasket) is desperate to star in one of Shakespeare’s plays. As women were not allowed on stage in the Elizabethan era, she disguises herself as a man and wins the role of Romeo.
When Will discovers her true identity, the two embark on a passionate affair that ignites his muse. Everything Will hears, does, and sees becomes grist for the play. Anyone who writes (or does anything creative) can appreciate that elusive zone when everything you take in is giving you new ideas and driving your latest work.
As it becomes clear that Will and Viola have no future—he’s married, and she’s promised to marry Lord Wessex and move to Virginia—his play turns from comedy to tragedy.
But in the end, their love will live on through Shakespeare’s pen, and when Queen Elizabeth commands that his next play be a comedy, Will knows just what the plot will be—a beautiful woman survives a shipwreck on a journey to a foreign land.
She disguises herself as a man for protection as she explores a strange new world.
Viola, of course.
And thus begins Shakespeare’s next play, Twelfth Night.
This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November.
Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry: Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! | How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years