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Romeo + Juliet

October 20, 2016

Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Pete Postlethwaite

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Synopsis: Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) – young lovers from rival families – fall in love, but fate, time and the hatred of their feuding relatives endanger the longevity of the relationship.

Review: Baz Luhrmann’s camp and operatic overhaul of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is comprehensible enough, although, for this commentator at least, Luhrmann’s proclivity to smother his films in a bombastic excess tarnishes much of their beauty, nuance and subtlety (he did a similarly crude job with Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby).

In mitigation to Luhrmann, he does keep the text’s original verse (though at the risk of sounding anti-American, Shakespeare never sounds as good in Yank tongue). The Venice Beach mafiosi concept is ingenious enough, and Luhrmann does capture the whole hysterical, unstoppable feel of the story which is one of its key themes – the devastating irreversibility of fate. If he had kept more of a check on his histrionic tendencies, Luhrmann could have ended up with a more transcendent study of the play than the more serviceable one he winds up with. (October 2016)

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