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Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeares Romeo + Juliet

My only love sprung from my only hate.

Directed by:

Baz Luhrmann

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 120 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United States

When William Shakespeare penned ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as a tragedy, I’m not sure this is what he meant. Call me presumptuous, but I reckon it’s the story that’s meant to be tragic, not its execution. Baz Luhrmann, though, obviously had other ideas when he directed and partially-wrote this noisy, jumbled and emotionally-vacant update of big Bill’s favourite two star crossed lovers.

Leonardo Di Caprio and Claire Danes play the legendary sweethearts of the title, dragged into an MTV-ified answer to modern-day Verona by Luhrmann’s crass in-your-face directorial techniques. Just as in the original, they’re from opposite sides of a long-running feud between two of the city’s prominent families, the Capulets and the Montagues. But here the two fams take their aggression out on each other via gang warfare and street thuggery, while the famous first meeting of Romy and Jules seems to pay tribute more to the art of the drunken pull than any delusion of the beautiful possibilities of love-at-first-sight. You could say, in fact, that what Luhrmann’s translation of the play boils down to is Shakespeare for chavs.

Bizarrely, the screenplay attempts to remain true to much of the original dialogue – a bold move, but one which only really succeeds in making the bulk of its cast look even more bewildered. Di Caprio in particular wears a constant “what’s going on?” expression across his face, and you can hardly blame him. He’s taking centre stage in an absolute mess, and his character’s endless droning on about “love this” and “love that” means that not only is he in well over his head, but he’s playing a whining bore to boot.

This is clearly a gimmick movie, but the gimmick swiftly grows tiresome. By the end of the whole thing, it’s become only slightly less irritating than Luhrmann’s atrocious and disgustingly-successful chart effort ‘Sunscreen’ – and I can’t come up with any summary more damning than that.

It's Got: A tendency to turn its nose up at arranged weddings. I can’t think why: I was at a wedding once that wasn’t arranged, and it was absolute chaos.

It Needs: A chief of police who’s actually willing to make some bloody arrests – all he seems to do is shout a lot and occasionally “banish” someone. Seriously, who ever heard – in this day and age – of someone being “banished” for murder? I ask you.

DVD Extras Audio commentary, director interviews, cinematographer’s gallery, music clips, TV spots, posters and a trailer. It’s all pretty cumbersome to navigate, and none of it is particularly interesting. Version reviewed: Romeo And Juliet DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Romeo and Juliet (1968 version)

Summary

Good movie, good movie, wherefore art thou good movie?

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4 Comments

  1. Daren
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    This performance was without doubt the strongest of the season with virtually nothing to fault. Dramatic lighting against a simple platform across the back of the stage eased one scene into the next without distracting from the compelling choreography.
    The film is mainly about a love story under the hatred between Montagues and Capulets. The exposition is briefly tells us the tragic story of these two families in 1996 in Verona. The scene of Montage’s teens and Capulet’s teens meet at oil station and fight to each other so that reveals the prejudice between the two families is the Point of Attack. Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love. Then they get married by the help of the Nurse and father Laurence. Tybalt, Juliet cousin, killed Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio. Romeo knew that and felt very angry, he found Tybalt and kill him at the Verona Beach. This scene is the Rising Action. The climax comes after Romeo is banished for the murder. Juliet suicide. Romeo risks his life to see her and suicide after he saw Juliet was dead, so finally they die together. The resolution of falling action happens after the death of both Romeo and Juliet. The hatred between the two families is resolved at the expense of their children.
    But, in truth, the show belonged to Christopher Mohnani as Romeo and Christine Rennie as Juliet. They partnered beautifully in this production. In the balcony scene, they effectively used Vasterling’s complex, phallic lifts, spirals and falls to convey the giddy playfulness of young lovers exploring each other. The intensely haunting, somber movement in the bedroom scene foreshadowed the tragic end.

  2. Jenna
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Okay, do you even KNOW how old the play Romeo & Juliet is? It was made in the 1500’s, or early 1600’s, so of course it’s not going to be TO bloody!the 1996 version was GREAT!But I can’t say anything for the 1968 version because i have not yet seen it.But I have seen a trailer, and both look great. But I am personaly in love with the 1996 version.

  3. Posted May 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    BTW “Wherefore art thou” means “why do you have to be” as in “Romeo, Romeo, why do you have to be Romeo?”. So the summary doesnt make any sense, “Good movie, good movie, why do you have to be a good movie?”? This was an amazing adaptions of the play and at the same time of being modern it still held that Shakespearian language in a understanding way. This was a beautiful remake of the Zeffirelli film.

  4. ANNA ELLIOT
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    DO YOU EVER KNOW? SHAKESPEAR IS A MAN!

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