127 of 132 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars appropriate reimagining of classic text
I think a lot of reviews of this film have been unduly harsh. I have had a fair amount of Shakespearean exposure (I was an English major in college), and I am actually impressed with Baz Luhrmann's interpretation of the text. Some people are so blinded by the seeming erudite stuffiness of Shakespeare's work that they forget what this play is really about. `Romeo and...
Published on September 15, 2005 by Cecily Champagne
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Takes me back...
..to ninth grade English! Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes sound like they merely read the lines (even haltingly at times), not understand and feel them. The only redeeming things about this are the sets, so wonderfully overabundant at times it's dreamlike, and the characters of Tybalt and Mercutio. One other thing is the mostly successful attempt to update the play...
Published on October 15, 2004 by Jane Austen
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127 of 132 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars appropriate reimagining of classic text,
* To begin with, Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes come off just right as the "star-crossed lovers." They handle their lines - perhaps - a bit awkwardly, and their key scenes are overacted. But as far as I'm concerned, their somewhat `poor' performances are actually perfect. In the reality of the play - Romeo and Juliet's behavior (though arguably passionate) is less than genuine. They are young, fickle, and full of hormones, and what might seem like acts of heart-felt love and desire are actually just curious explorations of subversive behavior.
* Many have lamented that the dialogue in this film (essentially) mirrors the original text ... but changing the text (in any major way) would be a huge mistake. Shakespeare's plays are not famous because they have a great story line - they are famous because of the unbelievable writing. It would, therefore, be pointless to modernize the dialogue. Shakespeare's plays ARE the dialogue.
* Although this film - compared with other renditions of the play - is decidedly modern, certain elements do contribute to a sort of timely ambiguity. The cars, guns, drugs, and music suggest 1996 (or thereabouts), whereas the gothic mansions, the ball, the feuding families, and the oppressive presence of the Church seem somewhat anachronistic. I think this ambiguity speaks to the universality of Shakespeare's work. Does it even matter when this play takes place? Have hot-blooded teenagers changed that much over the years?
* Lastly, the ambience of Lurhmann's film is intoxicating: zipping, choppy cinematography, an over-abundance of gaudy electric lighting, and an intriguing soundtrack. It's very titillating in an adolescent sort of way. Anyone who does not find the scene - where DiCaprio is dragging on a cigarette against an orangey sunscape, with Radiohead's "Talk Show Host" slowly pulsing in the background - sentimentally sexy - well, you must not remember what it's like to be 15.
All in all, this is an ingenious approach to a classic text - not to mention an entertaining film.
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Special Edition is SPECIAL indeed! Great for thy collection!,
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The special edition gives you all the treats you need. I'm not talking about still pages of text to read! I'm talking RAW footage of DiCaprio & Danes practicing their lines, many, many production scenes that leave your mouth open like, "oh, my gosh, I had no idea they had to go through all of that trouble just to shoot that brief scene"-kind of stuff, and best of all, an early treatment (pitch) for the film that was shot in Australia w/ DiCaprio in some alley ways. Rather lengthy, not just a mini-clip, Amazing! Insightful interviews of Baz Luhrmann; why do Shakespeare, how difficult it was to sell the idea to Hollywood, why he made the movie in the style that it is, etc.). If you have the original DVD & are debating, go for it!
The only disappointing thing was the production value of Claire Danes' interview... DiCaprio's interview is well produced & lit on a candle-filled set, then Claire Danes is terribly keyed (matted) over a few still images (her hair buzzing & breaking through the digital distortion). The menus are nicely done, not animated over-kill. This is an anamorphic for those who have the 16:9 TVs.
I haven't even listened to much of the commentary yet, but it sounds very informative & interesting so far. Perhaps the most important thing for those who did not like the film or were unsure, is Luhrmann's explanation of why Shakespeare should have been handled the film the way he did (the intense, in-your-face MTV-like editing / modern settings, etc)... truly both men are very visionary & talented.
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisp, fresh and breathtaking; this reimagining stands at the head of the pack...,
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This review is from: Romeo & Juliet - The Music Edition (DVD)William Shakespeare's classic `Romeo + Juliet' is probably one of the most influential pieces of literature ever recorded. You can feel its presence and influence breathing life into just about everything we read, watch or listen to these days. With a tale this classic, this important to modern cinema it becomes something a bit wary to tackle it at its core and `remake' it from scratch. One may be a tad hesitant to embrace its new shape and form and rightfully so. When you look at the track record for remakes it becomes apparent that in general what was once golden should be left well enough alone. In Romeo + Juliet's case though this is a reimagining so magical it surpasses the original and becomes a momentous piece in the history books of cinema. Yes, Baz Luhrmann single handedly breathes a whole new life into this adaptation, handing to his audience a masterful and experimental film that never lets us out of its grasp.
The first thing that Luhrmann did right was stick to the original text. A lot of people initially balked at the fact that the dialog was not updated along with the setting but I felt that artistically it was a much grander feat to have the original dialog kept intact. The fact that each and every actor slips into this way of speaking fluently and without issue is an ode to some great talent indeed. No one seems out of place of phoning it. Each and every actor handles the difficult wording marvelously. The next thing Luhrmann did right was trashing his setting. What I mean by this is that he didn't go the easy route and make this posh and beautiful but rather he played everything down, creating an almost gritty and dirty feeling to the surroundings. This is the future and the future is bleak.
The best thing that Luhrmann did though was casting Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the lead roles. At the time DiCaprio was slowly becoming a credible actor and Danes was just becoming known. Neither of them were quote-unquote household names or completely bankable yet but they both had proven they could act. Here though we get to see how well. To this day I still firmly believe that this is Leonardo's finest performance. Both he and Danes masterfully command their characters. Never has Romeo or Juliet felt so alive, so real and so relatable. Their tragic love affair is so enthralling, so captivating and so breathtaking. There are moments between them of pure beauty and strength that I'm appalled their performances didn't garner more awards attention.
The rest of the cast is equally as impressive, especially the likes of Harold Perrineau (of `Lost' fame) who plays Romeo's best friend Mercutio. His performance is outlandish and flamboyant and adds a lot to the atmosphere of the film. John Leguizamo is memorable as Tybolt, Juliet's cousin, and Pete Postlethwaite is wonderful as Father Laurence. Paul Sorvino stands out for me as Juliet's father Fulgencio Capulet. His performance is brutal and intense and sends chills down my spine in scenes.
`William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet' has never looked as good as it does here, telling the story of forbidden love and tragic circumstance that brings two families to their knees and teaches us a valuable lesson about forgiveness and tolerance. Baz Luhrmaan outdoes himself here, delivering a modern twist on a genuine classic complete with a beautiful color palate and an impressive soundtrack that adds layers of emotion, whether soft and touching or crisp and exciting (one reason this `Music Edition' is so worth the upgrade). It's not very often that the remake stands above its source material but Luhrmann's masterpiece is just that film.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu Ray makes everything look better!,
This review is from: William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)This is one of those blu rays that is only worth buying if the picture quality is 'TRUE" blu ray quality. This is one of them. The audio sounds much improved, the picture is rich and clear, the details of the movie are noticed more with such clear picture quality. Good job fox, this was a great improvement on blu ray, happy with this purchase, great film and great blu ray quality.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Stunning adaptation,
Yes, the movie is modernized, but then again, it isn't. The use of Shakespeare for the script instead of a modernized script while at the same time updating Verona to the present day feels very dreamlike, like it isn't even happening on the planet.
DiCaprio and Danes were perfect for these roles. I've seen too many movies from R&J and there was simply NO chemistry. That's not the case here. The lines aren't arch reproductions, "same old same old" stuff. The lines are spoken with frightening immediacy. This is important, because most remakes of this movie are far too elegant. This version captures the chaotic, euphoric passion of love that simply will not wait or be denied. The lines aren't just spoken, they elbow and push their way on to the screen. This is a major plus.
Claire Danes is simply gorgeous. Hers is a unique kind of beauty. Not typical Hollywood fare. Another plus.
The only scenes I had trouble with were the first scene with the Capulet and Montague boys meeting at the gas station, and the first scene with Lady Capulet and Juliet.
I highly recommend this movie because, even though we all know the story, this movie still finds a way to be just as fresh as the first time we read/saw the play.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English teacher gives this DVD an A-,
First, the updating works (for the most part). My students clearly understood gangs and rivalries; presenting the Montagues and Capulets as such, eliminated questions as why the two families hate each other or how the feud got started (answers which are outside the text). The guns and cars appealed to the boys; the love and romance appealed to the girls. My students could see themselves in the context Luhrman provided; they could relate to what was going on screen as present and relative, not merely events from 400 years ago.
Secondly, casting famous actors (DiCaprio and Danes) as the leads hooks many of my students at the beginning. They watch the movie BECAUSE Leonardo DiCaprio is in it, but soon the magic of the Bard's words (which they struggle to follow at first) keeps them interested. DiCaprio IMO is uneven; some scenes he performs better than others. Danes's performance (other than her fake crying in the Capulet vault) was generally strong and very believable; her words did not seem "acted" but rather natural. The supporting cast was also very good with Tybalt and Benvolio standing out.
There were some scenes that didn't work well for me. The Capulet ball in particular was strange. Mercutio came dressed in drag and this (unfounded) homosexual subtext was amplified by him prancing around on the stairs with some Chippendale dancers. Just plain strange. Also, the Queen Mab speech was weird and luckily cut short; Luhrman did try to tie it into the events as a sort-of intoxicated rambling at the "pre-party" (complete with Ecstasy) before Romeo crashes the ball. Another weak performance was Lady Capulet who played it for laughs (which again I couldn't see from the text), and it was an unconvincing performance played that way. The only time Lady Capulet seemed believable was when she played it serious (Tybalt's death, the argument with Juliet and Capulet). Some students also didn't care for all of the musical numbers, but most liked how Luhrman tried to include contemporary songs into the movie.
Some of the sequencing of scenes are a bit off, but this is a movie students definitely love and get into... which I think is how Shakespeare would want it.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tips for teaching Romeo & Juliet with Luhrmann along for the ride,
This review is from: William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (DVD)As my bio states, I'm a former English teacher. For 9th grade students, Romeo & Juliet was the most anticipated/dreaded time of the year - with the girls anticipating and the guys dreading. In teaching the play, I used both this movie version and the 1966 Zefferelli version. As a former teacher, allow me to share some tips.
There are lots of good things about this movie. While the two title roles are only good in execution, some roles are truly great, Tybalt and Harold Perrineau's Mercutio among them. It is a worthy film in its own right, but it is also an EXCELLENT teaching tool.
Now to the teaching tips:
(1) Don't show this movie all at one time. Students will miss 90% of what they need to see.
(2) Show the movie simultaneously with Zefferelli's film. Both movies have much to offer and some weaknesses. Invite students to compare and contrast the two, acting as experts.
(3) Show both movies a few scenes at a time, as you read the play. Invite them to analyze what each director/screenwriter included/left out. As them why the director/screenwriter made those choices.
(4) Remember at all times that Shakespeare was not writing a "work of literature"; he was writing a play, intended for performance. No student will fully understand any of Shakespeare's plays unless they SEE them, preferably in as many forms as possible.
Practical Example: Read the prologue and explain the function of the "chorus". Have students translate the lines and explain what they mean. View Zeferelli's prologue (under a minute)and discuss. Then view Luhrmann' version (about 1.5 minutes). Ask them what might have inspired him to do a prologue with a newsreporter as the chorus. Have them pick out the symbols, foreshadowing, etc. And finally let them vote about which one they like best and why.
Repeat the process with each section of the play. It will take a little longer than showing the film at once, but you will be surprised how much 9th grade students will be able to understand (on their own) by the end of the play.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent update of the classic love story,
The whole genius of this film is that the lines ARE kept intact, that this is still THE original, and yet we are still allowed to believe that this is modern. The lines are spoken as if this were how people talk to each other these days, and the clever touches such as the 'sword' guns that allow the script to be kept intact are what makes this movie such a delight.
Shakespeare was a pioneer in his time, and so it is only fit to give his plays a pioneering makeover. Shakespeare's scripts are deliberately left open to interpretation in that there are few stage directions, just the lines, and this is how he would have wanted it to be. This defies every expectation, challenged you to think about what the essence of Shakespeare is? Romeo and Juliet is always called timeless. It is because we may interpret it that it is so.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lush and Enchanting Experience,
This review is from: William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (DVD)There will be people out there that will criticize this version of Romeo + Juliet. Sadly, these people think they are purists, but are totally mistaken. As one that's been reading Shakespeare for years, and have taken classes specifically about the great Bard, as well as being an avid playgoer, this is simply put, one of the most exquisite versions of this tragedy on film. Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet was not made to be a sedate and quiet drama, it was written about a time and place that was quite racy by Elizabethan England's standards. Verona was a place of blood, lust, and intrigue. By updating the storyline so dramatically, Luhrmann tries to give the modern audience a taste of what made this play so remarkable in its time. At first it might seem brash and too MTVish, and simple-minded viewers may be immediately turned off by it, but for those who love seeing Shakespeare come alive, they will be delighted.
In our modern times it's often hard to look back on a play like Romeo + Juliet and understand how a sword fight can turn a town upside down or how a feud between two families can get a whole community involved, but Luhrmann turns everything up a notch and makes it obvious why these events were so important to the story's progression. Lurhmann is masterful at updating a classic story to the modern day while preserving the beauty of the original text, and revealing the raw emotion and fire in every scene. The art direction, costuming and sets are excellent and created a fantasy world that the viewer can get swept up and lost in. A great preformance by DiCaprio and the rest of the cast allow this movie to shine to it's fullest potential. There are few people that watch this movie and have mixed views - you will either love it or hate it. If you love it, you'll understand that this is the type of screenplay Shakespeare would have written had he lived in modern times. If you hate it, you obviously just don't understand.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as bad as one would think,
This review is from: William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet [VHS] (VHS Tape)If you are more inclined to mathematics or sciences you probably will find this adaption of Shakespeare's classic rather strange. If you are into theater, art or literature analyzation you will love it.
The concept of keeping the same early modern english language and putting it into our times seems absolutely nonsensical, but I found it the oppostie, where in fact it is more clear to understand the language when it is set to something that would appear familair to us.
The actors are actually fantastic, a young Leo and Claire make the perfect teenage Romeo and Juliet who were supposed to be about 14 anyway. They look as innocent and in love as Shakespeare intended it. I really liked Claire Danes as Juliet because you were watching Juliet, you weren't watching a famous actress play Juliet, you know?
While Baz Lurmahns direction style canbe a bit eccectric, it certainly isn't as flashy as Moulin Rouge but still, the color and camera shots are sensational. I'd see this film for the scenery and sets, etc alone.
I think it getsa bad rep because people expect to see a new age Romeo and Juliet. Ok, wrong. You will get the same gorgeous language the play MUST be spoken in, but the backround will be modern and colorful, however this always seems strange to some people.
It's an english major's dream because of all the imagery and symbolisim. I loved it.
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Romeo + Juliet (Special Edition) by Baz Luhrmann (DVD - 2002)
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