Movie: Romeo & Juliet (1996)

Posted 20 April, 2016 by Lianne in Entertainment / 4 Comments

Shakespeare’s famous play is updated to the hip modern suburb of Verona still retaining its original dialogue.

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I remember when my classmates in elementary were going nuts over this movie and over Leonardo DiCaprio. I didn’t watch it until much, much later when I caught a bit of it on television and found myself really enjoying this glitzy, frenetic envisioning of the story. I suppose I was digging my heels a bit too in the delay in watching this as the 1968 version is my favourite (review) but suffice to say the cast was quite an ensemble and the music choices were excellent. As I’ve been mentioning the past few days, in light of it being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I decided to revisit this adaptation from this play.

To date this has to be the best Shakespeare play I’ve watched transplanted to a modern setting (granted, I haven’t seen Coriolanus with Ralph Fiennes or Cymbeline with…I remember Ethan Hawke was in the cast). It’s glitzy with the Verona Beach setting and Vegas-like parties (whatever that means; the party scene where Romeo and Juliet meets just reminds me of Vegas, haha), the rivalling big-company families, the lights and flamboyant performances…It’s crazy and yet it totally works here. I think I’ve mentioned it in my review of the play (review) but I always thought it would be interesting to stage a performance whereby the humour was a lot more highlighted, and I think this is the closest we’ve got to that. Because even when things are grim, Shakespeare always managed to squeeze in a bit of humour somewhere (i.e. the gatekeeper in Macbeth (review)). The performances by the actors playing the Nurse, Mercutio, even John Leguizamo as Tybalt were fantastic in injecting that madness and hilarity in there.

Speaking of John Leguizamo, his performance as Tybalt was fantastic. I think I’ve said it before, but in that role he actually trumps Michael York as the more memorable performace (sorry Michael York, though rewatching the other adaptation, I love that his Tybalt had this reassured arrogance). That scene where he goes on his knees and kisses the image of the Virgin Mary on his gun handles was quite epic, I have to admit. But yeah, he captures Tybalt’s hot-headedness and recklessness perfectly, it was great to watch on-screen. Perhaps the most memorable performance of the cast. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the titular role of the star-crossed lovers was great, Leonardo with that youthful wonder towards his love of Juliet and Claire the more level-headed of the two (because let’s face it, Juliet was the level-headed of the two of them). Paris always seems to get the short end of the stick for these movie adaptations; I’m not sure about the recent adaptation but the 1968 adaptation and this adaptation his role was truncated considerably, which is unfortunate because OMG Paul Rudd (need I say more?) 😛

Oh, and special shoutout to Pete Postlethwaite as Father Lawrence, I always thought his performance was more memorable than Milo O’Shea. I appreciated the little tidbit that he was the only one in the entire cast who delivered his dialogue in the original iambic, but his presense his just excellent here.

Gosh, I’m honestly not sure what else to say about this adaptation. The soundtrack and music choices were pretty ace and I can’t stop raving enough at the use of location and venue to set this story. There were some excellent and memorable moments in this adaptation (Romeo and Juliet meeting for the first time, the balcony scene using the pool below). There were some changes, of course, a reshuffling of some of the lines (wow that I picked that up despite having read the play a year ago xD), but it all adds to the cinematic experience. Nonetheless, the direction choices are interesting and definitely makes for a memorable adaptation of Romeo and Juliet! 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆

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4 Responses to “Movie: Romeo & Juliet (1996)”

  1. As a life-long Shakespeare lover, with a MASSIVE teenaged crush on Mr DiCaprio, this was a winner for me and remains one of my favorite Shakerspeare films. Sometimes modernizing a story doesn’t work, but I think this adaptation pulled it off wonderfully. The angst is real but so is the humor, the drama and the feelings. Gah! You’ve just made me want to leave work and go home and watch this one LOL!

    • Haha, yeah, even thinking about this adaptation now makes me want to pop it in and rewatch it stat xD But I agree, this movie definitely packs it in on the feels–the humour (who would’ve thought?), the angst, the connection between Romeo and Juliet.

  2. I rememeber this coming out. I remember all my friends obsessing over it. I… don’t recall if I’ve ever actually seen it, I know I’ve seen a few scenes but not if they were from seeing the film or just seeing those clips on reviews or something.
    You’re making me want to watch it now though, so I may just have to do that 🙂

    • Haha, same here! Everyone in my class was gushing about it, but I forgot why I didn’t get around to renting it or something…too much hype, I suppose. But yeah, I definitely recommend checking it out at some point, it’s quite a take on the classic story 🙂

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