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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Shakespeare gets a Hollywood make over in Baz Luhrmann's high-octane
remake of Romeo and Juliet.
The Australian director manages to combine an exciting mix of original Shakespearean dialect and Hollywood action, which together delivers a brilliant new concept to film making.
The casting of Leonardo Di Caprio as Romeo and Claire Danes as Juliet are inspired choices, as they both give the best performance of their fledgling careers.
Although this is a story which has been told many times before, Luhrmann keeps the idea fresh, mainly by using a lovely mixture of fast editing and beautifully choreographed fight scenes, which wouldn't look out of place in a John Woo action film. It also combines a fantastic soundtrack with a stunning backdrop of 'Verona Beach'.
Right from the explosive beginning to the tragic ending, Romeo and Juliet will keep you captivated. This is a testament to Luhrmann's brilliant snappy direction, which will take you on a rollercoaster ride of car chases, gun fights and a love that was destined to fail.
Luhrmann's ablity to keep the audience wanting more is no more apparent than the ending. You would have to have been living under a rock, for the last 100 years to not know how Romeo and Juliet ends. But Luhrmann manages to keep the audience hoping that this time it will be different.
Would Will Shakespeare be happy with this adaptation of his work? We'll never know, although any fans of Shakespeare should leave the cinema pleased with this mordernised version.
Very underrated modernization of the classic Shakespeare play. This movie has been pretty heavily criticized for the directors outlandishness in cinematography, but he understands when to tone down the often frantic pace of the storytelling during the dramatic scenes, and in fact this relationship tends to amplify their potency. Beautifully choreographed and shot, wonderfully acted by both the supporting cast and the main 2 stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, and extremely sly modernization techniques to the dialogue. All the elizabethan dialogue remains intact, yet it all seems coherent in the modern atmosphere. mostly due to good imagery and double meaning in the phrases (ex: their swords being a gun model, or the flash of money while quoting gold.). One of the best shakespeare adaptations in the multitude of which have entered the cinemas in the past few years.
The amazing thing about this movie is that it has managed to re-do
Shakespeare's famous tragedy in a modern setting while still retaining
its original dialogue. What's even more amazing is it works. I admit
that I was a little apprehensive about seeing this movie, fearing that
Luhrman had either destroyed the play's beauty and power by setting it
in modern times, or had butchered Shakespeare's eloquent words by
making them sound more modern. I was wrong. Almost everything about
this movie is just incredible.
Luhrman brilliantly casted Claire Danes as fourteen-year-old Juliet. The actress certainly looks the part, with her youthful features and innocent eyes. More importantly, she acts the part. Ms. Danes almost flawlessly captures Juliet's distressing journey from childhood to womanhood, beautifully showing her dramatic transition which had taken toll on her during her five day relationship with Romeo. When the story begins, Juliet is a naive girl, having not yet experienced true love, and by the end we can clearly see just how much her love for Romeo has deepened in passion, and how dramatically her character has developed.
Leanardo DeCaprio's Romeo was almost equally impressive. Some of his recitations of Shakespeare made me cringe, but for the most part he was perfect. One of Romeo's most important characteristics in the play is the intensity of his emotions, and DeCaprio captures this feature incredibly. Romeo is brash and impulsive, with a tendency to act on the heat of the moment rather than to first consider the situation like the more levelheaded Juliet. This unfortunate characteristic, which played a huge role in leading up to the lovers' tragic fate, is wonderfully mastered by DeCaprio and retained throughout the film. But we also, like with Juliet, get a glimpse of his character's development. At the beginning of the play Romeo is a hopeless romantic who fantasizes of love, and seems to dwell more in his daydreamed world than actually on earth. At this point he has no idea what true love really is, he only thinks he does. It is not until he meets Juliet that he can begin to comprehend the true depth and passion of love. DeCaprio triumphs in this area as well.
The other actors are superb, and wonderfully portray their characters as Shakespeare intended. But what really impressed me was, as I stated earlier, the keeping of Shakespeare's original dialogue in Luhrman's modern setting. I know some people criticize this film for destroying the romance and beauty of Shakespeare's words by setting the story in modern day Verona, but I feel that it only made the film more romantic. What Luhrman did was both bold and brilliant, and he succeeded wonderfully.
I won't speak any more of the brilliance of this film, I just highly recommend you see it as soon as possible. If you're a fan of Shakespeare like me, I think you will enjoy this hip, yet still lovely, modernization of his most famous play ever.
I'm a sucker for William Shakespeare even though I like it done better in the theatre. This one however, kept my attention and seemed to do a great job with modernizing the whole quarreling families thing. The movie kicks off with a street brawl between the Montegues and Capulets. The Prince forewarns them that if they ever disturb the peace again their "lives will pay the forfeit of the peace." We are then introduced to the character Romeo who is played by Leonardo DeCaprio. Leo does a great job as Romeo, but that's because Leo is a good actor in this film. Soon after that we are introduced to Juliet who is played by the beautiful Claire Danes, someone I haven't seen in too many movies. Danes does a great job playing the flirty Juliet. The movie follows the original script very accurately. The symbolism is also used very well throughout the movie. If you look at the guns you'll notice that some say sword, some say rapier, and I believe some say dagger. The Montegues always wear a Hawaiian style shirt. The Capulets dress more like mobsters or thugs even though both sides could be viewed as thugs in some sort or another. In either case each family wears a certain kind of clothing that makes it easy to tell who's who. One great part I absolutely love is the party. Juliet wears angel wings and Romeo wears a knight outfit. Romeo's best friend (and I wish I could spell his name but I'd rather not butcher it) dresses up as a women. So to explain this form of symbolics, for those who aren't getting it, it's Romeo is the "knight in shinning armor," Juliet is the angel of Romeo's dreams, and Romeo's best friend is the comic relief. There's other things you'll notice at the party also, like Tybalt wears devil horns(i.e. he's a villain). Both families you'll also notice are rich, which also follows the script accurately. Overall, if you're a Shakespeare fan, a fan of romantic movies, a fan of tragic movies, or a fan of artistic movies then make sure to look into this one. It'll sweep you off you're feet, make you laugh, make you cry, and make you fall in love.
This film is incredible. Yes, the play is modernized, and for those who panned the film, I suppose originality was too much to take. Luhrmann stays with the original dialogue, which I believe adds much to the film and gives it authenticity. Therefore it cannot be dismissed as a masterpiece dumbed down to appeal to us easy to please teenagers. The camera work at the most dark parts of the film is quick and choppy, adding to the already potent and ever present depressing, tragic atmosphere. All of the leads were strong, with Danes and DiCaprio having amazing chemistry. In this film DiCaprio wasn't popular yet, so again critics can't say Leo was the draw for this film. Danes was emotionally pure and driven, and this is her best work to date aside from the critical darling, "My So-Called Life." No, the leads were cast with good reason - there couldn't have been any better. Supporting roles were wonderful, with the roles of Mercutio and Tybalt being exceptional, and the friar, who may be the most important character in the story, is brought to life by Postalwaithe The dreamy underwater shots are fantastic. Luhrmann's version of this classic tragedy plays to both a younger and older audience, adding touches such as the names of the guns being the names of swords; and he yet updates the setting, bringing the fantastic Verona, Italy to Verona Beach, Florida. A timeless story such as this makes any criticism of this film unnecessary and foolish; view it with an open mind and you will see the story as Shakespeare wrote it and as Luhrmann envisioned it.
This is not Shakespeare's best play, but it has his best poetry; that's
because the play is ABOUT language, about the difference between what
something is and the language used to describe it. So among the plays, this
may be one of the hardest to film. But alas it suffers from another blessing
which is also a curse: the story itself is so powerful that one can build
any sort of film or play or whatever around it and have it be likely to
work. Thus, we often lose the language.
Zefrelli made his own choices in the earlier film; these were relatively conventional. While it cut some valuable language, sacrificed to the gods of contemporary patience, it is by far the better version. But here we have some interesting choices.
First the setting. Italians to Shakespeare's England were a comical people, and his setting of the play there would have encouraged the audience to bring heavy stereotypes to the drama. Latins in his day were considered: Foppish: Quick to violence (a stereotype that has been inherited by blacks today, but to Londoners, Italians were nearly Africans): Incredibly proud especially as regards slights to masculinity: Obsessed with weapons.
Today, we roll those up under the relatively crude notion of stupid Latin macho. In this film, the director has exaggerated the Latin macho ethic to have the same effect 16th century Londoners would get. It works because these stereotypes are powerful memes which attract many hosts which perpetuate their underlying truth. Baz adds the additional dimension of the people being captured by the superstitious underbelly of the Church.
He deliberately straddles the border between apparent truth and satire. These Latins are superficial visually and not verbally. So here is the solution to the problem on how to make a film (which is primarily a visual medium) out of a play that leverages poetic language. The solution is to convert all the metaphors from language to vision. Hence the much-noted lack of poetry. I imagine Baz directing the players to not worry so much about the poetry.
Both Romeo and Juliet are incapable of performing the poetry anyway: they are children learning on the job. And what acting skill they have from film is all in the face, not the tongue. They are pretty enough though.
I like this film for its boldness. Some of the experiment works since we get the message of the difference between what we see and what is true. This is why Juliet has to see a LIVE Romeo at the end. Living under water is used to good effect. But in the real play, there are so many and such subtle explorations of the theme, and these are scoured away here for a few broad effects. The real message, which comes through loud and clear if you know the play (or even Zefrelli's film) is not the distance between the reality of events and the language, but the reality of the richness of the real play and this film. Equally vast. Equally powerful statement. So we have a playhouse with the back part blasted out to the sea.
As a separate matter, the play has three anchors: Mercutio, the Friar and the Nurse. These are handled interestingly here.
The Friar is an alchemical master hiding under the cloak of the Church. The play equates the magic of language with the magic of potions, equally deadly. The congruence is lost in this film, but Baz definitely gets the magic part as well as the superfluous ritual of the church. This friar is a terrific, memorable performance of someone who believes he can defeat nature. Serves as an anchor as intended.
The Nurse is the true domestic, raw nature, full of uncompromised loyalty but ultimately compromised. Her character is lost here. We NEED to know about the dead sister and why the nurse turns on Juliet in order to save her life. Baz fails here, and so provides no center. For Shakespeare, she's the white space on the palette.
Mercutio in the play is a emotionally engaged visionary mystic. We understand that Romeo and Mercutio studied magic (`philosophy') abroad together much as Hamlet and Horatio had. The dream they shared the night before is the axis of the whole action: rather like the magic of the witches in Macbeth. Baz gets this as well: Modern magic is what? Drugs. So Hamlet is given a psychotropic by Mercutio before going to the party. Works for me, because it allows everything to be visually blasted and inexorably tragic. The whole thing after the party is a trip, see? It is why they can meet, become entranced and arrange marriage after an hour or two. (Remember that until this point Romeo is hopelessly smitten by Roseline.)
Anyone who wrestles with problems of filming the Bard and comes out alive deserves my respect. This is a weird interpretation, but that's the point.
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-.
I highly recommend this for those who find the reading of Shakespearean text difficult but have a desire to explore his masterful works. The modern-day setting and the brilliant dramatic interpretations rendered by the actors (all wonderfully cast, incidentally) transform Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece into a modern-day cinematic tour de force. DiCaprio and Danes are believably cast together (although Danes' natural conservatism is occasionally apparent, though not to any detrimental affect). Sorvino as Capulet is forceful, powerful,and immovable (just what this viewer believes Shakespeare probably had in mind as he penned the classic). Mercutio (Harold Perrineau Jr.) is powerfully moving in the entirety of his portrayal. This movie is visually mesmerizing. I HIGHLY recommend this movie to anyone with an open mind and appreciation for excellent theatre.
Director Baz Luhrmann knew what he was doing when he cast Claire Danes
and Leonardo DiCaprio in the title roles of William Shakespeare's Romeo and
Juliet. The two young actors have the power to captivate their audience and
together, they are unsurpassable.
From the famous opening line of "Two Households both alike in dignity.." to the tragic end, the viewer is whisked away into the depths of the surrealistic world of Verona Beach. Don't expect to see British people prancing around in tights when you rent this one. Luhrmann creates a world where gun toting teens sport Hawaiian shirts and beach front brawls are an everyday event.
Giving the classic play this modern twist makes for a new understanding of the text and brings the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets to a whole new level. Shakespeare may be rolling around in his grave after seeing this film, but english classes all over the world can breathe a little easier when it comes time to take the R&J final exam because this new adaptation makes the theme remarkably understandable.
Danes brings life and incentive to the character of Juliet. Danes' Juliet reaches far beyond the subservient stereotype of most Elizabethan characters and has ambition and assertion. It is a step beyond her critically acclaimed work in "My So-Called Life" and has thankfully made her a more prominent figure in the entertainment industry.
This marked the last feature for Leonardo DiCaprio, pre-Titanic mayhem. It put his talent out for a wider range of audience, R&J being his first major studio production. The king of the indie and the "troubled child" role was now being recognized. His passionate portrayl of Romeo Montague will forever be remembered. He spoke the immortal words of Shakespeare as if they were his own and touched the hearts of millions. Too bad the boat movie shoved him further into the spotlight than he had ever wanted. But we won't get into that.
The supporting cast in this film was also outstanding. John Leguizamo played the wily, Tybalt. Harold Perrineau brought humor and diversity to the renowned role of Mercutio. Big names also lit up the credits of R&J with Paul Sorvino and Brian Dennehey as Capulet and Montague as well as Pete Postlethwaite as the star-cross'd lovers confidante, Friar Laurence.
This is my favorite movie of all time and I believe it was sadly underrated.
This movie does an excellent job of combining Shakespearian dialogue
modern imagery. Admittedly, I first watched this movie when it came out
because of Leo; eight years later (and seven years after middle school ended), I realize just how well-done this film actually is. Luhrmann did an excellent job of making the movie believable while using the quaint language. This movie
brings new life into the words of Shakespeare, and even if you know the play
almost by heart it is refreshing to hear the words in an entirely new context, and one which makes sense. This version of Romeo and Juliet actually does add
something to the extensive history of the play. The soundtrack is excellent, the acting is appropriate (Danes and DiCaprio do a wonderful job of portraying the young lovers), and the scenery is fabulous. This film jump-started the trend of modern-day Shakespeare remakes, and I think it's the best one.
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