Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Running Time: 120 mins
Romeo + Juliet is an American film, based on William Shakespeare’s classic play, about a boy and a girl from opposing sides of warring families who fall deeply in love in the town of Verona Beach, California.
So this is basically an insanely updated version of the Shakespearean play, styled like a 90s music video. Baz Luhrmann, ever the revisionist, clearly had an interesting and original vision for this film, but unfortunately, it descends into a incomprehensible, annoying and dull film to watch due to sub-par performances, frustrating dialogue, and a real inconsistency between the two eras that are meant to blend together.
First things first, you can give Luhrmann some credit with giving this modern adaptation a good go. It’s nothing like his stylish 2013 drama The Great Gatsby, but it’s still not one of the worst updated classic stories (1998’s Great Expectations comes to mind).
However, the issue with this film is that its updated vibe really doesn’t sit well with the Shakespearean dialogue. Again, it’s an interesting idea to mash the two eras together, but having people pulling guns on each other whilst shouting ‘FORSOOTH!’ ruins the excitement and any of the more tense drama of this film, by taking you completely out of the moment as you realise that this whole thing makes no sense.
Another big disappointment about this film is the performances. With some top actors in there, you would expect them to be able to pull of the Shakespearean speech with ease, but no-one, not even Leonardo DiCaprio, is that convincing in this film, and although the chemistry between DiCaprio and Claire Danes as Romeo and Juliet does work to some extent, the acting is yet another part of this movie that makes it so much tougher to watch.
Finally, the story. Now, there’s no way you can criticise the classically tragic plot by Shakespeare, but the way that everything is executed here means it doesn’t quite live up to the original. It may be going for something a little different, but it still remains that the final result of this experimental adaptation just isn’t so interesting, well-acted or entertaining to watch, and that’s why it gets a 5.6 from me.