Billy Shakespeare is a spicy little independent film by Deborah Voorhees that imagines what might happen if William Shakespeare tried to make it as a writer in today’s Hollywood rather than Elizabethan England. Quirky characters, compromising situations, and the kind of deadpan humor that fans of Waiting For Guffman will recognize collide with hilarious moments of camp to create a madcap world in which young Billy just can’t get a break.
From the blockbuster producer who wants to add aliens to The Tempest to the Pornos R Us production company that is ready to produce an X-rated version of The Merry Whores of Windsor starring Bigstaff instead of Falstaff, everyone wants to make “a few changes.”
Add to that the three women who vie for top billing in his personal life – his long-suffering girlfriend Anne Hathaway; his best friend Wilma Hartford, a drag queen secretly in love with him; and his overbearing mother who wants him to give up his writing and take over the family newspaper – and it’s anyone guess who will make it to the finish line.
Voorhees good-naturedly spoofs the industry with this truffle baked of all mirth and no matter. Television gossip show hosts, the paparazzi, film protestors, and devious competitors – no one is safe from skewering as the in-jokes fly and plot twists unfold. Anne and Wilma use a bed trick to determine which of them Billy really loves and they even end up in the middle of the age-old argument that debates whether Shakespeare really wrote the words attributed to him. A mistaken marriage proposal is cause for much foolery and the whole thing ends, as all good Shakespearean comedies do, with a wedding.
Jason D. Johnson’s droll delivery gives Billy a lovable-loser-turned-accidental-hero charm that spurs on the eccentric cast of characters forever revolving around him. Catharine Pilafas is a likable put-upon love interest and Phillip David Collins brings a wistfulness to the role of Wilma that balances the comedy with a dose of endearing sweetness.
And still, underneath all the comic hijinks is a thoughtful comment about the way others measure the value of an artist’s work. Billy Shakespeare is an entertaining film that takes the viewer on a wild ride through one soon-to-be-famous writer’s crazy road to success and all the unexpected angst that goes with it. If you love indie films, this one’s for you.