As usual, this review is scheduled to show up at 10:00 AM. It’s perfect timing in this case, because five minutes later, my Honors Literature class starts. Only because of this class did I give Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet a second viewing (but, since he and DiCaprio are collaborating again next summer, I guess that’s another justification), as I must bore myself with Shakespeare’s original text later this year. I did love the film upon initial viewing, but it quickly left my mind, strangely enough. I wish I hadn’t been reminded of it, because now, my opinion of the film has suddenly changed.
Bottom Line: More like Shakurspeare than Shakespeare.
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Brian Dennehy, Claire Danes, Harold Perrineau, John Leguizamo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Miriam Margolyes, Paul Rudd, Paul Sorvino, Pete Postlethwaite, Vondie Curtis-Hall
William Shakespeare wrote his tragedy Romeo and Juliet circa late 16th century, and to this day, the fable remains one of the most influential stories ever told. I’d be surprised if there were one literate human being on this earth who did not know the basic story by heart. We may not notice it, but the romance genre is replete with the “forbidden love” theme Shakespeare conceived. Sometimes, the nod is more faithful to the originating plot than to the mere concept (West Side Story); others, not so much (My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Romeo + Juliet is not completely destroyed by the fact that Shakespeare’s signature iambic pentameter is kept, and thus forcing the characters to speak in rhyme. We don’t want a Nicholas Sparks precursor, so to speak, with “star-crossed lovers” claiming their names are Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet; if wholehearted faith to the Bard’s olden speech pattern is what it takes to prove this is a pure adaptation of Shakespeare, then so be it. Furthermore, the problem does not lie in the fact that this is a modernization. Can I make it any more clear that I was very impressed by Ethan Hawke’s demonstration of Hamlet, and that Coriolanus is one of my favorite films made this year? The problem, my friends, is simply everything else, or almost everything else.