#1  
Old 01-06-2009, 07:31 PM
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)

It takes a really good director to be able to bring any story of Shakespeare's into a more contemporary setting. There are those that have tried hard to do so, such as Geoffrey Wright, who attempted to bring "Macbeth" into modern times, but failed to make the story interesting. Then there are those who have achieved it on a monumental scale, such as Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of "Hamlet," where he brings the story into the late 19th/early 20th century. Fortunately for director Baz Luhrmann, his adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" falls more into the latter category.

This timeless tale tells the story of Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio), son of Montague, and Juliet (Claire Danes), daughter of Capulet. Their families are enemies, but when our two heroes meet at a Capulet party, it is love at first sight. The two are secretly married by Friar Lawrence (Pete Postlethwaite), but Juliet's father (Paul Sorvino) plans for her to marry young Paris (Paul Rudd). When Juliet's father threatens to disown her should she not marry Paris, she goes to Friar Lawrence for help. He hatches a scheme that could have deadly consequences if anything goes wrong, but we all already know how this tale is fated to end.

"Timeless" really is the right word for this story. It is such a durable story that it could really be transplanted to any time at all, with a few changes of course. For the purposes of this adaptation, the story has been brought to a present day Verona, where duels are fought with guns rather than swords and the spoiled sons of Montague and Capulet drive around in their fancy cars, trying to show off to each other.

Certain characters also had to undergo changes to make this story work. The Prince of the original story has become Captain Prince, the Chief of Police and Paris has gone from being a young nobleman/kinsman to the Prince to being the Governor's son. Perhaps the strangest change of all is to the character of Mercutio, who gives his friends drugs and cross-dresses for Capulet's party. However, these are only minor changes that allow the story to be brought to a contemporary setting.

Watching the classic story unfold in this setting is fascinating. The Academy Award nominated art decoration and set decoration, by Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch respectively, provides an amazing backdrop to set this tale against. This is a great way to get a younger audience interested in Shakespeare's work; by putting it in a setting that they are able to relate to better. Well, hopefully not the part with the guns, but more so the modern times that the film uses.

This story was given its modern edge by screenwriters Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pierce, the duo who would later give us the masterpiece "Moulin Rouge!" While that film uses several flashy techniques with a camera and in its editing, we see the beginnings of that with "Romeo + Juliet." Luhrmann uses several establishing shots to show us the modern-day Verona that the story has been moved to and Jill Bilcock's skillful editing techniques to keep the audience engaged in the story. But the real magic of this story remains Shakespeare's masterful dialogue.

To deliver this dialogue for the title characters, two relatively unknown actors were chosen. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes had only been in small movies up until this point, with DiCaprio's big breakthrough, "Titanic," coming the very next year. Both of these actors bring the perfect amount of naivety to the roles of the star-crossed lovers. They portray them as two young people who, once they fall in love with each other, can think of little else. They don't think about how it will affect their families' future or how it will affect them. All they know is that they love each other, and nothing else matters. Granted, the Shakespearean dialogue sounds a bit strange coming from them at first, as it is usually delivered in a very pompous way from professional stage actors, but then you realize that there are a lot of things that are strange about this production, including all the changes made for its contemporization. It is these strange parts that work incredibly well for this production.

If all you're used to is Franco Zeffirelli's classic 1968 film version of this play, then be prepared to be shocked, as this is unlike any Shakespeare adaptation you will ever see. If you've never even been able to make it through any version of the play due to the language or just plain boredom, then this would definitely be the version for you. Either way, it seems Luhrmann is trying to get people interested in the Bard's classic story, because he realizes that not only is this story one that everyone should be familiar with, but that Shakespeare's greatness is something to be shared. 3.5/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-06-2009 at 07:41 PM..
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  #2  
Old 01-06-2009, 07:38 PM
i love Baz Luhrmann, i think he is one of the most creative and visual guys working today, Moulin Rouge is in my top ten favorites of all time, and this film is a huge success as well. I think it captures the romantic and tragic spirit so well, and there are strong performances in here, from everyone to Danes to Leguizamo.

9/10
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  #3  
Old 01-06-2009, 07:47 PM
Honestly I thought this was an awesome movie, one of my favorite performances from DiCaprio.

8/10
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  #4  
Old 01-09-2009, 01:08 PM
Thought it could be better. 7/10
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