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I had hopes. I really did. It's been almost two decades since an R&J adaptation, and I think it makes perfect sense to make a new version each generation or so, a fresh take, new faces to reinvent the timeless genius, etc, etc. Hamlet has been remade four times in the past twenty-five years and each version is unique, original and valid. That's one of the truly remarkable things about Shakespeare; the timelessness of his dialogue, characters and concepts stand the test of almost any lens.
And here I stress, *almost* any lens.
When I heard about this remake, I thought, great, we're ready. After Zefferelli's colorful, innocent and authentic gem, and Luhrmann's modern, raucous carnivale, even the idea of a newly traditional retelling was appealing, complete with genuine Veronese backdrops, longswords and tights.
And therein lies the true tragedy of Carlei's Romeo and Juliet: it could have been so much more than this. It should have been so much more. It should have been at least watchable. At the very least.
So many reviews have said things like "I don't mean to be snooty, but" Let's get one thing straight. There is nothing snooty about insisting on Shakespearean text. It's his play. He wrote it. The reason you're making a movie out of it again is because it is so amazing that no one has been able to surpass it and so you should never ever ever ever ever under pain of death and torture even consider bastardizing that perfect language.
Some people think that "Shakespeare would have written a different script for film."
No. He wouldn't have. He wouldn't have changed a thing. You. Dumb. Person.
If you are going to screw with the language, at least be smart about it, do an honest and complete rewrite, throw in some smug references and you'll end up with something like My Own Private Idaho or Chimes at Midnight, both of which are clever, original tributes to Shakespeare without presuming to remodel him. Seriously, from the writer of Downton Abbey we surely expected more charm, more grace, more intelligence. Maybe someone locked Fellowes in a tower with no food until he had finished this monstrosity. I truly hope that was the case. I feel better already.
And to all who have said something like "it's a way of connecting today's youth with classic literature" just stop right there. 'Classic literature' has managed to hold it's own for centuries, all the way from 1595 to 1996 when DiCaprio made us cry, so why, pray tell, has it suddenly become too much for our dear 'youth' in the 21st century? Has the world's collective 'youth' IQ taken a dramatic nosedive in the past eighteen years? Or is it because condescending, presumptuous dicks like yourself don't think our precious 'youth' can handle some iambs? That kind of thinking is actually making the world a dumber place.
In terms of casting (something that professionals actually get paid to do, by the way Carlo) I get the distinct impression that Hailee Steinfeld was chosen for this role very soon after True Grit, before she grew out of her pretty young charm and into a tomboy. Yes, she can act, yes, she's got a good face, but, no, she is not a Juliet. Especially not to Douglas Booth's Romeo. I can't recall a more fatal miscast then these two ill-equipped leads. There is simply no woman pretty enough to play a dove among crows opposite Booth. Except for maybe? No. No one. That face should be on a Calvin Klein underwear campaign, not on the silver screen with lines to deliver and stuff.
(And, side note, what 18 year old male who is so full of passion and temper that he crashes a wild party, falls madly in love with two different women, gets married, gets banished, and kills two guys and himself within the space of a few days chooses to spend an afternoon chiseling placidly away at a piece of marble? Really?? You had to do that???)
With wonderful, seasoned talent like Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti on hand, and some new faces that have more or less proved themselves on screen, I had hopes. Instead, by the time the tomb scene came along, all I could think was: please God let this movie end and release me from its impotent, beige, trope-ridden hell. I had absolutely no emotional investment in the relationship between Romeo and Juliet. None. And what is the story of Romeo and Juliet when you suck all the life-blood out of the titular relationship? Something verging on Twilight. (Yeah, that was bad. See what this movie's done to me?)
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Benvolio was actually a true high point in the acting stakes. Too bad he looked like the placating younger brother lost amongst a cast of simian adult cousins ("We fight! We fight!" "No, come on you guys, let's just all get along!" "Shut up, Ben."). And Ed Westwick had some wonderful potential as Tybalt; he just needed a director who could help him reign it in a bit and bring out the character subtleties. Alas. No such delicacy was achieved.
In summary, the experience of watching this atrociously-rendered, high-school musical offering, which had the quality and charm of a preliminary blocking read-through for a TV movie, was so terminally saddening that I had to watch Luhrmann's version immediately after. If only to hear the whole Prologue. I mean, not even 'star cross'd lovers' was sacred. Good god.
This movie took a turn for the worse the moment I saw a jousting stick. And it never recovered.
To embody the spirit of Will McAvoy: This movie is the worst period adaptation period ever period.
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