Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What I love about Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet is a Shakespeare play that frustrates me a little bit. I think to myself, "Hmm, does this promote suicide? Does this say, 'The only way to get your parent's attention is to die?' And who do these people think they are anyway? I hope when I have kids they don't fall in love so quickly and so young!" However, this classic is classic for a reason and there are aspects I love about it. These aspects are beautifully brought out by Baz Luhrmann's production.

First, let's talk about the difficulties in bringing a play to the screen. This is not an easy task! Remember 2004's The Phantom of the Opera? You don't? Well, it stunk! But, I love the play! Why is this so difficult? Because the audience that goes to plays is not
the same audience that goes to theater, so directors try to fit the play to please the movie crowd. While some directors fail miserably, Joel Schumacher, I'm looking at you, Baz Luhrmann triumphs.

The difference? Joel Schumacher's tragic flaw was casting a cast for the screen, not a cast for the stage. Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler look like Christine and The Phantom, but they don't sound like Christine and The Phantom. Meanwhile, Baz Luhrmann's cast is prepared to handle the Shakespearean dialog. Schumacher's scale and budget seemed puny, while Luhrmann's movie exploded with sets, extras, impressive fight choreography, and helicopters. In other words, Romeo & Juliet was bigger than life, while other plays-gone-movie, fall flat.

So, here's what I like: I like how Romeo and Juliet are identifiable. Luhrmann makes the world a little tripy and speeds up everyone besides the couple, who he slows down. Sometimes we feel that everything around us is a blur and we're the only ones seeing life the way we do.

I also enjoy the costume choices. I enjoy the fact that Romeo and Juliet's first impression of each other never changes. He's dressed as a knight in shining armor, and she's dressed as an angel. These perceptions never change. And why did they choose these costumes to wear? Perhaps because it's how they view themselves, and how they want others to view them... well, goal accomplished.

You know who's performance stands out the most? Mercutio ("Lost"s Harold Perrineau,) Tybalt ("Moulin Rouge"s John Leguizamo,) and Lady Capulet (Diane Venora.) While Father Laurence (Pete Postlethwaite,) the Nurse (Miriam Margolyes,) and others also add a lot of fun, these portrayals are examples of what makes acting rock. One might argue that it's easier to rock when playing certain roles, such as Mercutio and Tybalt, and I would reply, "Then do it!"

There are many critics of this movie, people who say, "The guns in place of swords is cheesy." I say, "It's a successful way to keep the meter." Some say they don't like the Shakespearean language, to which I say, "Don't blame Shakespeare, blame your lack of knowledge required to appreciate it!"

The end.


  1. I need to pay more attention. I have seen this movie so many times and never realize the speed thing or their costumes. (How embarassing.) I love this movie and the proof is in that I don't really care for Leonardo DiCaprio or Claire Danes regularly. Luhrman didn't just set the play to movie (Shumacher) but translated Shakespeare beautifully for the 90's.

  2. Yes. I'm not normally someone who likes it when people screw around with classics, or make them modern, so I think it says a lot that I like this movie.