Rated PG-13 2 stars of 5
“Romeo and Juliet” may be the world’s oldest story ever told. Not because Shakespeare (William Shakespeare from “Shakespeare In Love” – at least that’s how I think of him) wrote it more than four centuries ago, but because when Eve met Adam it was love at first sight, and then a problem arose.
While this story has been done hundreds of times, this movie version has not been done since 1968. That being a faithful telling of the story set in the proper period with the Old English set dressings and Shakespeare’s dialogue.
Now, Italian Director Carlo Carlei (“Il generale Della Rovere”) shines his light from yonder movie projector to give us his lavish spectacle of this tender young love story. The movie was pretty, as was young Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld from “True Grit”) in capturing the attention of Romeo (Douglas Booth from “LOL”). The performance of the leads was passable. They delivered the lines but not the full emotional impact you want from these characters. To make up for this, the filmmaker has added a pounding score to pull at your heartstrings. Even in the balcony scene, the music was so loud I could hardly hear the actors.
Just because it’s a great story does not mean I can’t attack the plot, or at least its presentation in this film. The two schemes Romeo and Juliet hatch with Friar Laurence (Paul Giamatti from “Rock of Ages”) come off like a bad “Three’s Company” episode. I am not sure if some of the blame belongs to screenwriter Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”), but I am not going to blame the other writer.
I admit that I don’t know the real Shakespeare work, and I prefer the modern homogenized versions of the story. I dug the Baz Luhrmann edition (Romeo + Juliet – 1996), which had one foot in the 16th century. Going in, I wondered why anyone would make this movie, and who would want to see it. Coming out I understand why they tried, and I wish they had succeeded, because now I want to see this masterpiece in all its period glory. While the sets were beautiful, they are just backdrops. The words of Shakespeare are merely spoken. But the power of the story cannot be achieved with cheesy music and “Reservoir Dogs” style slow motion.
There was more good than bad in the movie, but I have to grade on the Shakespeare curve. When you set out to tell the greatest story ever, you better get it right. I can only give them 2 stars out of 5, and I am certain this film will soon fade from yonder flat screen windows.
Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.
Here is a link to his movie review site: http://bashmovies.wordpress.com/