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Stars Seth Numrich, Matt Doyle, both from Tony Award-winning production of WAR HORSE. Based on William Shakespeare s Romeo and Juliet! When eight male cadets are left behind at an isolated military high school, the greatest romantic drama ever written seeps out of the classroom and permeates their lives. Incorporating the original text of Romeo and Juliet, YouTube videos, and lip-synched indie rock music, PRIVATE ROMEO takes us to a mysterious and tender place that only Shakespeare could have inspired.
Brave, controversial...hugely adventurous and highly liberated movie that offers a fresh take on the Bard in the age of same-sex marriage. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Rex Reed, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER Dynamic ensemble cast of young actors invests the Bard s poetry with energetic energy. Ronnie Scheib, VARIETY Leads Matt Doyle and Seth Numrich accomplished Broadway actors are intense, engaged and appropriately tragic. Joe Neumeier, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS --WolfeSee all Editorial Reviews
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The actors here are superb, and make the text come alive in a way that I've never experienced before. (And it certainly doesn't hurt that they are SO easy on the eyes!) Rather than stuffy and/or wooden delivery in affected British accents, we get line readings that sound like actual live humans speaking to each other. All of the actors had experience performing Shakespeare, although for some this was their first time doing so professionally. Hale Appleman is especially good, and should have a very successful career ahead of him.
I saw this at the Reeling film festival in Chicago a few years ago, and it was my very favorite film out of the couple dozen that I saw that year.
As "West Side Story" was a mid 20th century palimpsest of the same play, "Private Romeo" is a 21st century retake on a 16th century tragedy that almost everyone knows, or thinks they do. Except "Private Romeo" adapts Shakespeare's pellucid verse to director Alan Brown's wildly imaginative vision, to transform a mundanity expected by the film's central conceit of a setting, to "fair Verona" and her famous feud. It may seem, at first, a bit surreal - the exigencies of its physical/temporal setting have to stand for medieval Verona; and 8 cadets, left alone on the otherwise deserted campus (never mind why) of a military school have to distinguish themselves into Montagues and Capulets for a few days as their temporary lives become Mercutio and Benvolio, their words necessarily become the actual play, well, most of them, and Juliet's a boy, and the ending is updated, and other such trivial matters - on second glance present less obstacles to verisimilitude than one might at first think. In addition to being the greatest writer who ever lived, Shakespeare was a practical man, and his scaffolding is especially sturdy in Romeo & Juliet to bear such conceits. In Shakespeare's time/place, girls were always really played by boys in theaters. Also, this re-invention of the play has a different ending. But Romeo & Juliet is about the irrational intensity of youth and the poetry of physical passion. And writer/director Alan Brown's industry is so repeatedly and constantly surprising, he ends up bringing it all off.
But no matter. These fine actors stitch it altogether and one sees a familiar story, with familiar words, in a totally new and fluid way. It is hard to overstate how good the performances are. In addition to playing dual roles as cadets, and members of the Montague and Capulet crews, some of the actors play multiple roles in the R&J story. Hale Appleman is as fun to watch as eating pie, with his ticks and grins contrasting with his rage at his abandonment, expressed symbiotically with Shakespeare's glorious pentameter. Moreover, Mr. Appleman's part in this film requires him to play 3 roles: the military cadet, Nef; Romeo's BFF, Mercutio; and Capulet, Juliet's father. The scene where he, as Capulet, tells Juliet that he has arranged for her to marry someone other than Romeo, is gut wrenching. The scene where Mr. Appleman, as Mercutio, fights and is eventually "slain" by Tybalt, crackles with craft and a startling range of expression. Chris Bresky, as the meddlesome nurse, is alive in two skins at once. As Romeo & Juliet, Seth Numrich and Matt Doyle burn up the screen. And Matt Doyle's transcendent rendering of one of the great American songs during the end credits is worth spending an hour on the internet trying to find the mp3. (Try youtube.)
The contrast between the emptiness of the set - montages of stills, taps and revelry, the raising of the flag twice, empty dorms and classrooms, and the organic adaptation of Shakespeare's intensity, both in the grief and in the jokes - the strangeness of its transformations - and its beautifully declaimed youthfulness, make both the play and the movie "two as one", in Friar Lawrence's words about those ageless star-crossed lovers.
Of course, this movie apparently never even made the theaters and it was made on a dime, but it's truly brilliant in my opinion. The 8 actors who play in this film are mostly unknown outside of theatrical venues and thus have amazingly intelligent and well-crafted chops. It's available on Amazon Instant Video, and may be on Netflix streaming video too. Or you could just rent the DVD if you live in one of those far off corners of the world where one can still go to a store and rent a movie. Unless you're a total bigoted nitwit, you'll thank me.