“I Wish You Well”: The Curious Case of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Parting Shot

As far as Gwyneth Paltrow fandom goes? Depends on the day. Or rather the decade. Like almost any other simple millennial who counts by scrolling, liking and sharing nostalgically Instagram posting as a valuable use of their time, ’90s and early ’00s Gwyneth undeniably has a certain je ne sais quoi.

This was for-“welfare‘, making candles that smell like a vagina and taking credit for popularizing yoga. No sir, these were her rebellious years – you could say, accidentally, that’s the DNA of cool. Making her mark in movietopia as the ambitious, cross-dressing, Viola Shakespeare in love (which won her an Oscar) and (the wildly underappreciated but nonetheless sweetly charming) Sliding doors to the brooding Margot Tenenbaum in Wes Anderson’s cult hit film The Royal Tenenbaums (a character who almost certainly, for better or for worse, influenced an entire generation of girls to wear more eyeliner, smile less, and buy faux fur coats long before the Indie Sleaze masses opted for aesthetics). Seductive scarlet velvet suits by Tom Ford, which still stand in the Fashion Hall of Fame, and grungy leather jackets. Consciously linked to Hollywood ‘bad’ boys and a pack of Marlboro lamps. Simpler Times: Which I hereby archive as The UnGoop-ified Golden Age of Gwyneth.


On the other hand, of course, there’s no denying that in recent years it feels like what the actress-bowl-wellness mogul is now saying publicly is going to cause some kind of internet meltdown. Like when she once shared, “I’d rather smoke crack than eat canned cheese.” Or told a journalist: “I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be someone who makes $25,000 a year.” OK yes – written down you would think, why would you say that? Bad taste, Paltrow. But the point is, and not to play devil’s advocate here, but she’s, uh, not wrong. She was one of the highest paid Hollywood actresses in the world. She has a point. Even if that point is on the side of observably unpleasant.

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Her words, as polarizing as they can be, I think have a layered meaning. That’s what makes them such a delight to dissect. Sometimes shocking. What is she actually saying? Did she mean to say that? Does she regret saying what she said? That’s what makes them so divided; so, dare I say, strangely refreshing at times to hear – even if we clearly disagree with the sentiment itself – from a celebrity in the eye of today’s cancellation culture storm. Essentially, this is someone who, quite frankly, just doesn’t care. I say what I want, your reaction and interpretation is not my responsibility.

Her words, as polarizing as they can be, I think have a layered meaning. That’s what makes them such a delight to dissect

The guessing game reared its ugly head again this week. During Thursday’s grand finale of what is sure to go down in the books as one of the most memorable and memorable celebrity trials of the year. In case you missed it: between Gwyneth and retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, the latter suing her over a skiing accident in Utah that happened more than seven years ago. He claimed he suffered permanent brain damage as a result, which she denied, and accused Sanderson of crashing into her, causing her to lose “half a day of skiing.”

When she received the verdict and found her not liable, she delivered the most iconic, most steely farewell photos. Four simple words. Whispered to her accuser as she left the courtroom…I wish you the best.

Gwyneth Paltrow acquitted of all wrongdoing in high-profile US ski crash lawsuit (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

/ AP

It’s the new “f**k” style, softcore style. Cursing without cursing

Sanderson’s response was that it was “very nice” of her. Although, social media responses detect a rather different hidden subtext. One twitter user wrote, “Gwyneth Paltrow whispering ‘I wish you well’ to the man who sued and lost her is pure troll behavior, iconic,” another commented “Ice.Cold.”

Whatever you read, it’s fair to say that this brief summary has incredible power. It’s the new “f**k” style, softcore style. Cursing without cursing. A kind of dressed up, smarter, passive aggression. Without the inevitable pettiness that comes with simply hurling insults across a room. Something that can easily stop a disagreement or, say, an ex-boyfriend who wants to hang out with you but isn’t really with you. The recipient is then left baffled and confused because, well, technically speaking, you’re not really saying anything wrong, and yet…

Of course, looking ahead, people are now predicting an “I Wish You Well” Goop candle. Frankly, I would buy it. So sue me.