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William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet

Baz Luhrmann's modern update on Shakespeare's romantic tragedy.

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Romeo + Juliet

  • May 2, 2011
  • by
We had started watching this in my English class, but we had never gotten around to finishing it, so I thought I might as well take advantage of illness and finish it. In retrospect, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet with a modern setting but Elizabethan dialogue was a bad idea. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, and the dialogue certainly is beautiful, but if I were to go back in time and advise Baz Luhrmann about this movie, I would tell him to either keep the Elizabethan setting and language, or change both the setting and the language to modern. This movie wasn't an awful movie, hence the 40 and not the 0. It definitely could have been competent, it just misfired in a ton of different directions and ended up being a total mess.

Romeo and Juliet is a movie about....you guessed it, Romeo and Juliet. However, this does not take place in Elizabethan England, but takes place in modern day Verona Beach. It also has modern weapons, namely "Sword" brand guns. Those of you who are fans of the original Shakespeare story will be happy to know that the basic plot elements and the dialogue are still there, the dialogue is just either shouted unintelligably by actors who can't handle it or is spoken very quietly by actors who can't handle it. The dialogue is still poignant and beautiful though. It's Shakespeare, how can't it be? It just needs better actors to handle it.

The acting ranges from average to eh. The only two performances that were above average were the late Pete Postlethwaite and Miriam Margolyes as Friar Laurence and Juliet's Nurse, mostly because they appear to be more familiar with the dialogue and the style of Shakespeare. The young cast, namely Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes and Paul Rudd were okay. Leo, Claire, and Paul are good actors, just not very good Shakespearean ones. Leo and Claire had reasonable chemistry as a couple, and they certainly tried, they just didn't succeed. The rest of the adult actors (besides Postlethwaite and Margolyes) were again ranging from average to eh.

This was also before Titanic, which was what really put Leo on the map, so this was probably the big startup of the worshipping of young Leo. In fact, even in my English class I could hear the audible swooning for young Leo. While I don't deny that Leo was a good-looking youngling, he's not really my bag. I can imagine the teen girl cults flocking to this movie but if I hadn't been one year old when this movie came out I wouldn't have been one of them. All in all, I'm sure Leo was a big driving force behind the popularity of this movie.

Now the movie isn't without its merits. The art direction and style of the movie was superb, and deserved its Oscar nomination. The movie is definitely meant to be heavily stylized and it is quite stylized. However, the editing is some of the worst I've ever seen. To be fair though, the movie was very much a product of its time (AKA the 90's), where bright flashing colours and choppy editing ruled the world. Trust me, this film has that in spades. The soundtrack was also very good, and worth downloading. So the film was definitely not a painful film to watch, and it definitely has its merits.

This movie definitely isn't good enough to warrant a recommendation, but is okay nonetheless. It could have been competent, but it just went all over the place and ended up being a complete mess. Average acting, naturally great dialogue, abysmal editing and good art direction make for a very mixed bag of a movie that is probably one of the most divisive movies ever made. If you really want to, then see it, but if you don't then don't bother and just skip it all together.

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More William Shakespeare's Romeo + ... reviews
Quick Tip by . October 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Ignore DiCaprio and it is a brilliant film, unfortunately he speaks roughly a third of the lines .... it's chocolate mousse fouled up by having a third of it made with jello-pudding. Watch it with the finger on the mute button for when he talks.
review by . March 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Updating or modernizing a masterpiece is always a daunting task. Who remembers, for example, Mozart's re-orchestration of Handel's "Messiah"? For whatever reason, many people seem to think that re-writing or re-staging or re-plotting the Bard should be encouraged -- even in the most bizarre of directions. There have been some successes: "West Side Story" is a brilliant work of art. "The Lion King" is essentially "Hamlet" with a happy ending. (I'll let others decide if this was a good idea or not.)    …
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About this movie


Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom) takes a shot at reinventing Shakespeare's story of star-crossed lovers as a visual pastiche inspired by MTV imagery, Hong Kong action-picture clichés, and Luhrmann's own taste for deliberate, gaudy excess. The result is explosive chaos, both in terms of bullets and visual sensibility, which some may find impossible to stick with for more than a few minutes. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes play the leads, though not with much distinction, while Pete Postlethwaite makes a huge impression as this movie's version of Friar Laurence. The film is successful in spots, but overall its fever-dream game plan is difficult to ride out.--Tom Keogh
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Movies, Drama, William Shakespeare, Leonardo Cicaprio


Director: Baz Luhrmann
Genre: Romance
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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