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Romeo + Juliet (1996)

  Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Written by: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce, William Shakespeare
Starring: Claire Danes, Leonardo DiCaprio
Links: Romeo + Juliet on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Book, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Romeo + Juliet (1996) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Chikamatsu's 'Love in Osaka' (1959) and pearly's review of Pretty Dead Girl (2004).

"A brilliant update" - a review by andy-j

Young Romeo of the Montague house is desperately in love with Rosaline, a girl who has sworn never to give her heart to a man. Saddened and depressed, he is finally convinced by his friends to crash a party being held by the Montague's arch-enemies - the Capulets. Once there, Romeo meets and falls instantly in love with Juliet of the house of Capulet, a girl who should be his bitter enemy. But Juliet feels no hatred towards Romeo, and their feelings for each other are so intense and unchecked that they decide to defy their families' wishes and become married. Trouble quickly follows, as matters quickly spiral out of control, heading towards disaster.

There is no doubt at all that William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a timeless masterpiece. It is a relatively simple story, containing the audience-pleasing elements of love, death and tragedy, all woven into a highly dramatic and thrilling plot. The prose is wonderfully deep, flowing and open, the stuff of fascination for hundreds of years. Director Baz Luhrmann has chosen to adapt the classic play to a more modern setting, while still retaining the complicated and rather unfriendly-in-modern-times dialogue.

Luhrmann has taken an approach that many Shakespeare purists would turn their nose up at - choosing big-name stars, and taking some rather unusual liberties, such as referring to drugs when Romeo discusses dreams, using "sword-brand" guns rather than traditional swords, and making Mercutio rather feminine. In addition, Luhrmann uses very "now" camera techiques and editing styles, which some would interpret as making a mockery of Shakespeare's original. Initially, I thought the same thing, but as I became drawn more and more into the wonderful fantasy-like Verona, I began to see why he chose this direction. For one, any "realistic" modern-day setting would quickly date, but Luhrmann's approach certainly seems a lot more timeless (much in the tradition of Shakespeare's original). Secondly, the story itself is somewhat fantastical - how would the notions of expulsion from a city and "magical" herbal potions fit in against such a heavy backdrop of a gritty modern-day suburb? Not well. So instead we are presented with only a semi-serious backdrop, thus never allowing these sorts of questions to become relevant. And thirdly, this approach has allowed for a new generation to experience Shakespeare in an identifiable yet still enjoyable setting.

Luhrmann is totally unafraid to let his imagination run wild, and Romeo + Juliet is a stunning example of the results. It is an ingeniously clever and creative adaptation, full of vivid colours and memorable locations, scenes and characters. It's all over-the-top but it all works. The actors, who include Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-cross'd lovers, are all absolutely perfect. They make effortless work of the complicated dialogue. DiCaprio in particular gives the most memorable performance - he is energetic and emotional, allowing the audience to connect with Romeo more than any other character.

Romeo + Juliet is a wonderful breath of fresh air. It does a great service to the original by updating it for a modern-day audience, while still retaining what makes it wonderful. It treats the story with the respect it deserves, but doesn't take things too seriously, and that's ultimately what makes it so appealing and accessible.

andy-j gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 4 Feb 2004

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Reader comments

  1. blablabla

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from hola on Mon 02 May 2005 08:29 #

  2. omfg! i <33 this movie so effing much! it is the best movie ever! i <33 it! i want to bang romeo!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from hollison on Thu 19 May 2005 06:47 #

  3. Masterpiece. Nevermind what anyone says. Baz is a genius.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from jessica on Sun 05 Mar 2006 22:27 #

  4. i loved the film to and i think what you said was remarkable you should make it bublic

    A comment from kim on Sun 09 Apr 2006 21:57 #

  5. huh?

    Rating given: 5

    A comment from summer on Sat 10 Jun 2006 19:47 #

  6. man tis is awesome..

    A comment from lol on Thu 13 Jul 2006 16:40 #

  7. No Comment

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Brandon on Sun 21 Jan 2007 05:01 #

  8. rubbish

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from jim on Mon 12 Mar 2007 03:39 #

  9. For me personally, Luhrmann's adaption was absolutely rubbish, it was almost embarrassing to watch such a mockery. For those who have the same views I suggest watching Zeffirelli's version- it's wonderfully done, great actors as a bonus!

    A comment from Rebecca on Mon 08 Sep 2008 20:13 #

  10. Marvellous!! Thank you Baz Luhrmann!

    Intense, lush, fascinating, innovative, heart-wrenching. And Claire Danes has the most expressive face I've ever seen on the big screen.

    "Purists" who loathe it should know that Shakes himself was not a purist: 400 years ago he entertained spectators the loud and wild way, not just with the pure text we find in his books. Because plays were watched by people who weren't respectful and silent, but who spent the time in a theater drinking and flirting. A playwright had to offer them the most impressive audiovisual effects in order to make them watch and listen.

    The hate coming from fans of Zeffirelli's film made in 1968 (see comment above) has more to do with their own psyche than with Luhrmann's movie: ppl who adore 1 particular film don't want to see it being challenged or outdone by a different film. So the Zeffirelli fans have been grumbling since 1996. Just let them grumble.

    You can believe me: the leading actors in Zeffirelli's 1968 film were not "great", but horrible. If you don't believe me, go ahead and waste your money on it.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Stefan on Fri 06 Mar 2009 00:43 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 6.71 (7 ratings)

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