March 13, 2004

Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + JulietSecond in Baz Luhrmann's "red curtain" trilogy (after Strictly Ballroom and before Moulin Rouge!). He does the "update the Bard" thing with Romeo and Juliet changing the setting to Verona Beach and the swords to guns.

In the documentary features on the DVD, Luhrmann states his intent of reproducing the kind of popular entertainment Shakespeare was aiming for that would put butts of all persuasions in seats. The movie feels like that, but the language is a great distancer to modern audiences. I would have needed the play in front of me to figure out what the heck they were talking about a lot of the time. Actually, that's not true; Luhrmann's far too good a visual storyteller to let you get too lost even without subtitles for the Elizabethan English (it occurs to me that you could make this into an extremely funny movie by providing (un)suitable subtitles ;-)

While it might not have been successful as a broadly popular blockbuster, it is a lot of fun to watch these actors strut and sail through the hyper-stylized sets and settings Luhrmann and his team dreamed up.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the perfect mix of innocence and passion as Romeo. Claire Danes manages to combine girlish obsession with an open-eyed intelligence that brings Juliet to life. John Leguizamo's Tybalt is over the top but manages to avoid crossing the line into parody. Harold Perrineau Jr. plays the doomed Mercutio with verve. Also notable are Miriam Margolyes as Juliet's Nurse, and Pete Postlethwaite as a tattooed Father Laurence.

The DVD is chock full of extras including an early video version of some of the scenes put together to convince the studio that Luhrmann's vision would work on screen.

Posted by jeffy at March 13, 2004 02:35 PM
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