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The classic story of Romeo and Juliet, set in a modern-day city of Verona Beach. The Montagues and Capulets are two feuding families, whose children meet and fall in love. They have to hide their love from the world because they know that their parents will not allow them to be together. There are obstacles on the way, like Juliet's cousin, Tybalt, and Romeo's friend Mercutio, and many fights. But although it is set in modern times, it is still the same timeless story of the "star crossed lovers".
There are various billboards, advertisements and magazines throughout the movie that contain quotes from other William Shakespeare plays: (I.i.1 = Act, scene and line number)
'Shoot forth thunder' (the gun advert) is from 'The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth', IV.i.109.
'Experience is by industry achiev'd' (in the Capulet lift) is from 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona', I.iii.25
'Such stuff as dreams are made on' (another advert) is from 'The Tempest', IV.i.168-169. Prospero (the name of the drink in the advert) is the player who says these lines.
'Add more fuel to your fire' (sign at gas station) is from 'The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth' V.iv.70
'Retail'd to posterity' (Montague corporate poster) is from 'Richard the Third' III.i.77
'A rash fierce blaze of riot' (newspaper headline seen through flames at the end of the gas station scene) is from 'Richard the Second' II.i.34
'I am thy pistol and thy friend' (gun poster in the pool hall, which is named the Globe after after the Globe Theatre in London where Shakespeare's plays were first performed) is from 'The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth' V.iii.85
'Jack Cade's Lemonade' is a stall visible next to Sycamore Grove. This is a reference to the character Jack Cade from Shakespeare's Henry VI. See more »
During Romeo's soliloquy at Juliet's bier he rips off his necklace and places the ring, necklace and all, on her finger. The necklace reappears and disappears around his neck randomly in the scene. See more »
Two households, both alike in dignity. In Fair Verona where we lay our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny. Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.
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Everyone is familiar with William Shakespeare's boy-meets-girl love story, and it has already been interpreted into films, plays, TV adaptations and songs. But Baz Luhrmann gives this world-known love story a modern-day twist, setting it in Verona Beach, and piling on the religious imagery. The result is quite spectacular.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes play the star-crossed lovers, and, whilst the latter is sadly a little bland, never truly convincing us in her portrayal of Juliet's loss of innocence or torment of feelings towards the foe, DiCaprio completely redeems her performance. He is a revelation. His Romeo is a wonderful mix of sad eloquence, a loving heart and a troubled soul, and all these elements come together beautifully in a performance hotter than a pepper sprout, with more layers than the proverbial onion. He is the very embodiment of sexy in his role. There is an extremely alluring way in which his character is filmed, which only enhances Romeo as a lover. This is epitomized in the opening shot of him, where the Leo is illuminated illustriously against the sunlight, and Radiohead's languid, sexy tune "Talk Show Host" plays.
The film itself has "sexy" written all over it, and, with the Gen X teenagers as his target audience, I don't think Luhrmann would have things any other way. But, unlike with that atrocity Moulin Rouge!, with Romeo + Juliet, the over-stylization is appropriate, making the movie more accessible to teens, for example, through gun warfare rather than swordplay, and the canny symbolisation of Queen Mab as a drug. But perhaps the most ingenious stylistic technique here is the slap-in-face Shakespearean references, which range from a ball called the Merchant of Venice, to 'Such stuff as dreams are made on' from The Tempest, making the film an absolute goldmine for trivia fans.
Style aside, there is more than enough substance. Romeo is presented exactly as the play does at first, the mawkish, gawky, lovesick teenager, then, the fickle boy, and finally, the devoted and caring lover, and much of this loyalty to the play is due to the screenplay from Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, which maintains the original memorable dialogue and descriptions, but also dares to stray from the sidewalk in some of the plot turns, and the film completely benefits from it. The set designs are intricate and beautiful, and suit every frame of the film perfectly, and the icing on the cake is the music. Craig Armstrong's score for the swimming pool scene is as stunning as it is original, and the use of non-original music, from Kym Mazelle to The Cardigans, give the film the added edge of cool, making Romeo + Juliet one of the boldest, sassiest and most unforgettable adaptations to date, and English Lit. GCSE has been made far more digestible for us kids across England. It's what Shakespeare would have wanted. A-.
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