A Review of Baz Lurhman’s film version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

This update of Romeo and Juliet is set in verona beach, where the capulet’s and montague’s are dueling coorporate heads. After an opening that is just too silly to be believed, (somehow I don’t think Shakespeare had a gunfight at a gas station in mind when he wrote this play), Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, The Beach) enters this film, and things go from bad to worse.

 

Reviewed by Jen Johnston

Baz Lurhman’s “Moulin Rouge” is, IMHO rivaled only by “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” for the title of best picture of 2001. The writing is tight, the performanes heartwrenching. (After seeing “Moulin Rouge” I will be in love with Ewan MacGregor until the day I die).

Then I saw “Romeo and Juliet”.

In fairness it’s not Lurhman’s directing that make this film problematic, for the visuals in this
work are just as lovely. It is more, that the beautiful images Lurhman projects seem totally
inapropriate for the story. That, and the complete miscasting of Romeo cause this incarnation of Shakespeare’s tragedy to seem less like a classic, and more like a overly ambitious music video.

This update of Romeo and Juliet is set in verona beach, where the capulet’s and montague’s are
dueling coorporate heads. After an opening that is just too silly to be believed, (somehow I
don’t think Shakespeare had a gunfight at a gas station in mind when he wrote this play),
Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, The Beach) enters this film, and things go from bad to worse. Number one: Romeo should not be prettier than Juliet, and number two: (and most important) actors in a Shakespeare piece should have some awareness that the words coming out of their mouths have some connection to an actual meaning. Leo spends this whole movie acting as though he’s speaking a foreign language. What’s worse, is he makes the other actors, gifted people all, look like talentless hacks. Hands down the worst Romeo, I’ve ever seen.

Sadly Claire Danes (Brokedown Palace, Home for the Holidays) makes an excellent Juliet, but as
Leonardo isn’t performing to the standard she sets, she comes off as overacting. Her scenes with him are dreadful, with everyone else, they’re quite good; giving the whole film an unblanced feel. (particular note must be made of her final scene with Friar Laurence, showing more passion than most actresses of her experience).

One has to wonder what a great actor like Pete Postlethwaite is doing in a movie like this. After appearing in such films as “The Usual Suspects” and “The Great Ryans” he has more than proved his talent. Then he arrives in this, and I begin hoping against hope that he needed his salary for a new home/car/pool/ anything. He suffers the same fate as Claire Danes in this film. Someone who actually appears to know their stuff, but, when faced with the great black hole of ability that is Leonardo DiCaprio comes off as cartoonish.

Don’t judge Lurhman’s abilities by this film for if the storyline was anything but Romeo and Juliet, the visuals would be startling, lovely. Since this is one of the great romantic tragedies of literature however, this update seems nearly arrogant. Shakespeare’s stories are beautiful enough without needing someone to spruce them up.

About the Reviewer: Jen Johnston is one of those lucky few who make a living at making sarcastic comments about films she loves,
trying to remember them later, and writing them down. In her spare time she plays saxophone and piano, ballet dances, paints, does yoga,reads, runs, does endurance races with her horse, and (completely destroying her sweetness and light image) boxes competitively. Jen lives in Nova Scotia.

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