Thursday, August 17, 2006

My review of Romeo + Juliet

Everyone is familiar with William Shakespeare’s boy-meets-girl love story, and it has already been interpreted into films, plays, TV adaptations and songs. But Baz Luhrmann gives this world-known love story a modern-day twist, setting it in Verona Beach, and piling on the religious imagery. The result is quite spectacular.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes play the star-crossed lovers, and, whilst the latter is sadly a little bland, never truly convincing us in her portrayal of Juliet’s loss of innocence or torment of feelings towards the foe, DiCaprio completely redeems her performance. He is a revelation. His Romeo is a wonderful mix of sad eloquence, a loving heart and a troubled soul, and all these elements come together beautifully in a performance hotter than a pepper sprout, with more layers than the proverbial onion. He is the very embodiment of sexy in his role. There is an extremely alluring way in which his character is filmed, which only enhances Romeo as a lover. This is epitomized in the opening shot of him, where the Leo is illuminated illustriously against the sunlight, and Radiohead’s languid, sexy tune “Talk Show Host” plays.

The film itself has “sexy” written all over it, and, with the Gen X teenagers as his target audience, I don’t think Luhrmann would have things any other way. But, unlike with that atrocity Moulin Rouge!, with Romeo + Juliet, the over-stylization is appropriate, making the movie more accessible to teens, for example, through gun warfare rather than swordplay, and the canny symbolisation of Queen Mab as a drug. But perhaps the most ingenious stylistic technique here is the slap-in-face Shakespearean references, which range from a ball called the Merchant of Venice, to 'Such stuff as dreams are made on' from The Tempest, making the film an absolute goldmine for trivia fans.

Style aside, there is more than enough substance. Romeo is presented exactly as the play does – at first, the mawkish, gawky, lovesick teenager, then, the fickle boy, and finally, the devoted and caring lover, and much of this loyalty to the play is due to the screenplay from Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, which maintains the original memorable dialogue and descriptions, but also dares to stray from the sidewalk in some of the plot turns, and the film completely benefits from it. The set designs are intricate and beautiful, and suit every frame of the film perfectly, and the icing on the cake is the music. Craig Armstrong’s score for the swimming pool scene is as stunning as it is original, and the use of non-original music, from Kym Mazelle to The Cardigans, give the film the added edge of cool, making Romeo + Juliet one of the boldest, sassiest and most unforgettable adaptations to date, and English Lit. GCSE has been made far more digestible for us kids across England. It’s what Shakespeare would have wanted. A-.


Miss Positive said...

Hello Emma.
WOW! What a blog you have here! Very nice!

I've watched Romeo + Juliet too but honestly, I actually prefer the older version where Olivia Hussey(??)was Juliet. If I'm not mistaken, that's the actress' name.

Anyway, you are a good writer. Keep up the fabulous work! =)

JL said...

Love the film, love the review :) said...

This will not have effect in fact, that's exactly what I suppose.

Anonymous said...

im doing Romeo and Juliet film comparison for school, and i much preferably like the modern version, beacause it is that little bit more exciting to watch with all the newspaper heading shots giving the film excitement. With the camera angles being used like close up and extreme close ups it really does give the audience a veiw on the film and the wraps of what is about you happen. Baz Luhrmann has definitly the better version of the film as he lets the tension build in the climax (the ending) as he changes the script. Therefore Juliet and Romeo get one last chance together though only being a minute this truley shows the true tragedy of the play written by William Shakespeare.
Honestly before this assignment, i thought Romeo and Juliet was stupid. But i am happy i have been able to do this assignment as i got to watch both version numerous times to compare and see the tragedy unfold over again and come up with my own opinion on which film version i prefer.
~written by Bec.

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Ben Davies said...

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Kelly Zauber said...

You are such a great writer... I love your reviews, very substantial. Yeah.. I remember my wife when we were watching this movie.. She smiled and cried instantly inside our Austin TX home theater.