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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

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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