Austin reviews the latest adaptation of ROMEO & JULIET!!


Yes.  It’s another adaptation of William Shakespeare’s infamous play about the star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet.  I’ve never read the play.  Oh wait, I guess I have read some sort of abridged version in Junior High.  I saw the 1968 movie years ago.  I remember kind of liking it.  However, I did love Baz Luhrmann’s version back in 1996.  Haven’t seen it in at least 15 years, so I’m not sure how it holds up today.  I don’t think anyone was asking for another version, but alas, here we are.  I actually wasn’t dreading this.  I thought the trailer looked decent, and my daughter has never seen any version of it, so I was sort of looking forward to it.

I’m sure most of you reading this know the story.  I’m not going to waste your time by going into great detail.  It’s pretty much the one of the most well-known stories in history.  Romeo and Juliet fall in love.  They each are from feuding families, so their love is forbidden.  They hope that their love will bring peace to their families’ everlasting feud, but fate turns out to be more tragic.

I found it quite refreshing that in this day and age, a filmmaker would be so bold as to film an adaptation that wasn’t updated.  It takes place in its proper setting, and with no pop songs.  That takes guts.  Unfortunately, the result wasn’t that satisfactory to me.  Much of the classic language is there, but then it seemed like they added some straightforward dialogue in the mix, as to not alienate folks not familiar with Shakespeare’s poetic words.  I could be wrong though, but some of the lines felt awkward to me.

I do think the movie started off promising.  The jousting duel in the beginning was cool.  I also really liked the art direction.  It didn’t feel like a souped-up version of medieval times, it felt more naturalistic.  That worked for me.  I also really liked the 2 leads.  Both Douglas Booth as Romeo, and especially, Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet are really strong.  Their chemistry together contain some sparks.  It was nice seeing these characters portrayed by actual teenagers, and not twenty-somethings posing as teenagers.  So that was good.  I also really liked Lesley Manville as Juliet’s nurse.  She brought a lot of personality to a one-dimensional character.  She also brought a lot of energy and life to many scenes, that would have turned out lifeless if it wasn’t for her.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag.  Damien Lewis (who I always thought was a dead ringer for William Atherton) overacts his ass off as Juliet’s father.  It’s a performance that comes across clumsy and amateurish.  Paul Giamatti, who I normally love, is pretty God awful as the priest who marries Romeo and Juliet.  His character is a bumbling buffoon, and he severely overacts during any heavy emotional scene, always shaking his head like he’s got Parkinson’s.  That was embarrassing.

The direction isn’t terrible.  It’s just kind of there.  Every once in a while, there will be a neat shot, like Juliet running up the stairs with the camera filming that upside down.  But most of the time, it’s just standard coverage.  Stuff that you would see on a decent Cable show.  It might be good for a Cable show, but in on the big screen, you better step up your game.  Also, the sword fights are filmed very choppy.  Some of those shots just don’t match each other.  They didn’t seem very planned out.  On the plus side though, the music by Abel Korzeniouwski is quite good.

I must add to this that my 10-year-old daughter loved this movie.  She has never seen any other version, so that’s most likely why.  She was not just crying, but bawling and sobbing at the end of the movie.  Even though I didn’t care for it, it’s always a joy for me to see my daughter get so involved in a movie.  So I’m glad I took her.

I didn’t out right hate the movie.  The 2 leads are great and it has some solid art direction.  But if you’re going to adapt a story that has been told countless times, you better direct the hell out of it!  Make it special!  Direct a movie like you’ll never make another one.  Instead, the filmmakers have just made something mediocre.  And that, my friend, is a sin in the world of filmmaking.  Not terrible, but this could have been something special.  It all felt like a missed opportunity to me.  ★★ (out of ★★★★)

– [PG -13] for some violence and thematic elements.

– Running time: 1hr 58min.


Categories: Austin Kennedy, Reviews

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