Time: 120 Minutes
Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo Montague
Claire Danes as Juliet Capulet/Juliet Capulet-Montague
Brian Dennehy as Ted Montague
John Leguizamo as Tybalt Capulet
Pete Postlethwaite as Father Laurence
Paul Sorvino as Fulgencio Capulet
Diane Venora as Gloria Capulet
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Baz Luhrmann helped adapt this classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy for the screen, updating the setting to a post-modern city named Verona Beach. In this version, the Capulets and the Montagues are two rival gangs. Juliet (Claire Danes) is attending a costume ball thrown by her parents. Her father Fulgencio Capulet (Paul Sorvino) has arranged her marriage to the boorish Paris (Paul Rudd) as part of a strategic investment plan. Romeo attends the masked ball and he and Juliet fall in love.
I am not a fan of Romeo and Juliet (the play). I myself have studied it in English and while I can appreciate the impact that it’s made, I’m just not really into it. I am even less of a fan of the 90’s Romeo and Juliet movie by director Baz Luhrmann. The whole movie just irritated me from start to finish, and while it’s not one of the worst movies I’ve seen by any means, I really hated watching it.
One of the significant changes that Luhrmann has made was that this movie is pretty much set in the 90s. It did feel really weird with everyone speaking Shakespearian dialogue in modern day. With that said, Shakespeare’s plays can generally be translated into any time period, at least in terms of story. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Romeo and Juliet though, despite Luhrmann’s best attempts to making the movie make sense in the modern time period. For example, when technology like phones exist, it really makes you question why things didn’t happen differently, particularly towards the end (AKA, Juliet could’ve texted Romeo what was happening and so the whole tragedy could’ve been avoided). Otherwise the story is pretty much the same as in the source material, just presented differently.
The acting is quite the mixed bag. Something I’ve noticed is that the line delivery (particularly from the younger cast) is quite quick, and by that I mean they often deliver their lines quickly and it seems like they don’t know what the lines even mean. Claire Danes gives probably the best performance out of the younger cast as Juliet. As a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio… he just wasn’t that great here to me. There are some scenes where he is incredibly over the top, and while that might work for a play, it doesn’t work for a movie, and you just can’t take it that seriously. Towards the end (and I mean like the last scene) he is genuinely good though, and he does have a few legitimately good scenes. Most of the rest of the younger cast are fine enough but are generally okay at best. John Leguizamo was out of place here, he can give good performances but he feels a little miscast here. Paul Rudd is also in this movie. I don’t remember if he was good or not but I remember that he was in the movie. The older cast is quite impressive, much more so than the younger cast, with the likes of Paul Sorvino, Pete Postlethwaite and others giving some really solid performances.
The part that annoys me most about this movie is the direction by Baz Luhrmann. The style is so fast paced and in your face, and it got extremely obnoxious really quickly. I swear, this is the fastest I’ve disliked a movie, it took under 2 minutes. Luhrmann doesn’t always use this style, he’s done The Great Gatsby without having all of that, even during the party sequences. Even Moulin Rouge (another one of his movies I dislike) seemed to have more of a reason to have this crazy style than Romeo and Juliet. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t some good moments. The well known fish tank scene is one of the better additions to the movie, it doesn’t require any over the top and in your face elements, it’s rather subtle. Ironically that’s when the movie is at its best, but it feels like the movie is constantly trying to not be that. Something I realised watching this movie, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby, is that Luhrmann is way better when he’s not directing over the top and crazy moments. His quieter moments are genuinely effective and great.
Romeo + Juliet really irks me, it just flat out has everything that usually annoys me in a movie from it’s over the top and hyperactive direction, editing and sometimes acting, however I know that this will appeal to some people. Honestly, I can’t even guess as to what audience will like Romeo and Juliet. It seems to have a mixed reaction, some people love it, others hate it and I fit in with the latter crowd. I guess to figure it out, watch a trailer or some clips and if you’re into what you’ve seen, then give it a watch, you may end up loving it.