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Elizabeth Edwards @twoesonename
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Watching Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet.” Buckle up, ladies and gents, ‘cause I have thoughts.
Having a reporter do “In fair Verona, where we lay out scene...” is delightful. To do it in heavy-editing recap mode with police footage stuff is also delightful. Doing both is redundant.
Literally no idea why Luhrmann gives the Capulets’ dialogue to the Montagues and vice versa but sure let’s do this
Having Benvolio say “the quarrel between our masters” is a nice touch. Luhrmann’s over the top, duh, but that’s actually decently subtle.
Having Benvolio’s gun have a literal “sword” label on it is fucking amazing and why don’t people like this movie more? It’s great!
Ah, yikes. I love Leonardo DeCaprio. He’s Good People, his star turns are fun, and he’s so so good in Django Unchained. But he’s really struggling with Shakespeare’s dialogue.
Example #1: “Aye me, are sad days so long?” He completely smooths the tone, dropping pitch at the end when he should be raising it. He sounds like he’s lecturing, not lamenting.
Example #2: “What quarrel was here? Yet, tell me not for I already know.” He keeps raising pitch over the course of the line, losing its entire movement.
Have I mentioned that Benvolio is great in this version? Deciding to do Shakespeare with naturalistic tones is hard, doubly so with an American accent, but Benvolio’s actor is making it look effortless (bar his reading of “you know not what you do!”)
Okay, Mercutio is... a lot...
Ugh can all Romeo & Juliet adaptations cut the Queen Mab speech? It’s a shaggy dog joke, not a psychotic break. Seriously, it’s such a weird interruption when it’s played like this.
ROMEO GETS F***ED UP BEFORE GOING TO THE PARTY I recant every bad thing I’ve said about this ridiculous, glorious movie
Romeo pondering the fish tank before making eye contact with Juliet is actually really solid visual storytelling. Love it when adaptations do that. It’s nice for Shakespeare screenplays to be additive, not just translative.
Ooh, the song’s nice, too. And Leo was cute when he was young, gonna concede, even if he’s tripping over his tongue a bit.
You know who’s really good at doing this dialogue naturalistically? Paul Rudd. God I love Paul Rudd. I think I’m rooting for Paris? This could be an issue.
Tybalt’s whiny ass voice is really annoying when he’s delivering over the top threats, but it works great when he’s recovering from getting bitchslapped by Capulet.
Okay, Leo’s doing good with banter. Everyone’s actually doing a lot better with the quick banter, but he’s really stepped his performance up with his seduction technique.
Thinking on it further, he’s only making one big mistake. He never knows when to finish his sentences by raising or lowering his pitch. Which, unfortunately, is actually a big drag on the lines’ impact.
I should say something about Juliet, right? In the interests of equity? She’s fine. Not particularly notable, but she’s fairly good as of the party scene (it’s not useful that she had like 3 lines in Act 1).
Okay, her reading of “...that I must love a loathèd enemy” is actually really good. Canny use of aireated tone.
Wow, an extended physical comedy sequence to lead into the balcony sequence? That’s a choice. Leo’s good at it, though.
Okay, this one shot with the two of them delegated by a statue? Good shit.
Okay, I’m ready to say that Juliet’s actually really good. Her “wherefore art thou” monologue is great, wistful and melancholy in equal measure.
God Romeo was always a thirsty boi but man does Leo lean into that aspect. Boy is ready to get laaaaaid.
Luhrmann’s smart about leaning into that — setting a scene in a swimming pool, with the characters fully clothed, is objectively the horniest way to film something.
I always forget how cute this scene is. This is so cute. I want these two idiot babies to be happy together I’m weak. “Romeo & Juliet” isn’t his best play, but this might be my favorite Shakespeare scene.
LEO’S SO HORNY GOD (he plays “wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied” like he’s pissed that she won’t have sex with him right there next to the pool)
I’ve always defended this version as being just fantastic, unrestrained camp excess, but this version of this scene is actually really good at being sweet and genuine instead of being EXTREEEEME
Oh I didn’t comment on this at the time but the Montague kid licking his nipple while advancing at the nun was just nasty. Still, Luhrmann’s style always ran the risk of being tasteless.
Okay, real talk: Friar Lawrence is the best character in “Romeo & Juliet.” They got a really good actor for him, all his lines have movement! Bless’ed movement!
Yeees Friar DRAG Romeo for being such a goddamn horndog that snarky little shit needs humbling
Making lines of dialogue headlines or text or whatever is stupid in 100% of Shakespeare adaptations and I love it every time
“Young wanderer” did I mention Friar Lawrence is the best?
Leaping from the children’s gospel choir doing a religious piece to them singing a pop song is exactly what I want out of Baz Luhrmann doing “Romeo & Juliet.”
Mercutio remains just... a lot...
I think he’s supposed to be gay? With the drag, and the delivery, and all? I’m a bit uncomfortable with it to be honest.
I do appreciate that they’ve made Mercutio and Romeo’s fight into friendly banter. Keeps things light before the Tybalt duel.
Did Luhrmann give the Nurse an accent because she says “as they say” so often? The point is that she’s inarticulate, and conflating that with being foreign is problematic.
“And we will marry.” *nurse grins, funky music pops in* God I love this movie
Okay Juliet is talking about Romeo and she tears up a little and she wipes it away and god that’s such a mood. I’ve done that so many times when talking about my crushes.
Okay adding a bunch of choir boys to this marriage is so good. So, so good. Also, this kid’s a good damn singer! What’s he done since? I want two albums and an EP.
Goddamn it Westworld now whenever I hear “these violent delights have violent ends” all I can think is “Robot wars! Robot wars!” And there aren’t any robots here.
Having two consistent “Montague Boys” is a good visual choice, even if they don’t say anything. They really put a lot of attention towards the specifics, even if it gets lost in the flashy lunacy.
Yeah, right before Mercutio does, I should point out that he’s DEFINITELY being played as gay. The way he mocks Tybalt is totally leaning that way.
*dies. Shit.
Leo’s actually doing spectacularly with Romeo’s attempt to talk Tybalt down. Good reminder that he’s a fantastic actor.
“Be satisfied. BE SATISIFED!” good shit Leo, good shit.
Oof, he’s getting beaten hard! That’s a lot of blood.
Aaaaaaah using glass to stab Mercutio is a little too visceral for me I’m squeamish ew ew ew eeeeew
Okay, the echoed repeat of “BOTH YOUR HOUSES” is overdoing it. After the first half-hour, it actually turned into a fairly understated drama, and I think I lost my camp rhythm.
The decrepit amusement park was a really good setting for this battle, I have to admit. Nice location work.
Juliet is so fucking cute I’m a little bit in love
Back off, Romeo. I call dibs.
Romeo fucking CRASHES HIS CAR into Tybalt, then holds Tybalt’s gun to his head, takes it, and shoots him!!! This version goes HARD
Yeah, gonna be honest, I don’t get the Jesus imagery. And I’m actually willing to bet that it’s not because I’m an atheist. It’s just *there*.
Oh I forgot they made Tybalt Lady Capulet’s lover. Weird.
Belvolio’s doing a great job being debriefed by Prince. It’s actually quite moving.
Doing the Prince by way of Samuel L. Jackson is a surprisingly solid choice
I stan Friar Lawrence. I love one (1) man.
Okay the whole “exile” plot jars with the modern setting. Weird to watch a cop just be like “yeah he’s exiled, that’s a thing I do”.
Having Juliet learn of Tybalt’s death off-screen is a good choice. Keeps the movie pacey, and allows for some scene-shifting.
Okay Paris, buddy, you seem nice, but maybe don’t bring flowers to her the night her cousin died? Have some class dude.
In contrast to the thing about making dialogue text, making dialogue voiceover is stupid in 100% of Shakespeare adaptations and I hate it every time
REALLY weird to have Juliet talk about her husband. She looks like she’s 18, tops! Like, Leo has babyface but at least I believe that he’s an adult.
Fun fact when my teacher introduced the scene of Romeo leaving the morning after she was very, very concerned with us knowing that they had slept with each other that night.
“Yeah, they had *comic whisper* SEX. They didn’t stay up all night talking!” *winks*. So, yeah, that’s one thing I remember from English class.
Have I mentioned that I’m in love with 1996 Claire Danes? Because FUCK I’m gay for her.
(Okay, fine, yes, I just now googled her name. Sue me.)
Alright time to have dinner guys I’m taking a break, but rest assured these tweeds will continue soon after
Okay this promise didn’t pan out. Dinner ran into Doctor Who and now I need to sleep. Will pick up tomorrow. ‘Night, loves <3
And we’re back! Forty more minutes to go, let’s get rolling
Wow Lady Capulet is particularly obnoxious in this version
Man they cut a LOT of 3.5
Okay, pool/grave imagery is... an odd use of the modern setting. Romeo looks wet? Not dead?
Lady Capulet makes it sound like she wants Paris for herself gonna be honest
Okay Claire is going a bit too hard with the screaming and the crying. She’s giving 100%, but it could probably use a lighter touch.
Oh I forgot how the Nurse betrays Juliet this is a very not cool thing to do. Shame, shame!
Her actress plays it with as much sympathy as can be done, I’ll concede. I don’t hate her right now, I’m just disappointed.
Oof, that “amen.” Fucking chills. Such a great line.
Ooh Rudd is ramping up the swarmy shittiness. Smart choice. We need to hate him right now, and he could so easily be charming. It’s good that he doesn’t.
Adding guns stops the field from being quite as intimate, but damn does it enliven all the threats of suicide. Idle threats? Nah, let’s have Juliet THREATEN TO SHOOT THE FRIAR.
Hahaha I love that Romeo lives in a trailer. Poor bastard, the banishment really did bring him low.
Oh hello bitch mother don’t you dare smile at Juliet you haven’t EARNED it
Has Claire Danes ever played a proper villain? I feel like she’d be good at it. She’s great at these ominous line readings. “Farewell, mother.” Tone alone should be a warning sign.
They cut the equivalent of one act for the movie. Keeping most of those cuts for the last two acts was smart. Allows repetitive information to be given by visuals.
Shakespeare has a weakness for repeating information in dialogue, and it makes reading him a pain at times. They’ve avoided that here at every turn.
More good casting! Balthazar has like three lines, but he brings the resigned melancholy.
Man these guys MOVE. No one walks; they leap, they bound, they sprint.
Oh my God we’re not. We’re not doing a police chase. I can’t...
The UPS being the reason why Romeo didn’t get the Friar’s letter is the best thing in this entire film, and there have been some great things
“I pay thy poverty, and not thy will.” Good line reading from Leo. Good menace, and solid grief mixed in there.
I mocked the speed and the chase earlier but it’s generally a good addition. Gives the entire plot a great deal of vitality. Romeo SHOULD be desperate.
Having Romeo take a hostage while cornered instead of getting into a snark-off with Paris is good.
I keep just saying “____ is a smart choice” but it’s worth repeating: this is a fantastic adaptation! Really canny choices.
Act Five is the weakest of the play; it loses steam and gets really caught up in reiterating information. In the movie, however, things feel TENSE.
That’s a lot of candles damn
Did Leo and Claire get cast solely because they look really good on screen together? Maybe. Was this a mistake? No.
Wait, is Leo... doing well with a monologue? *Really* well?
Everyone’s bringing their A-game to Act 5, and it’s paying off. No odd notes to speak of, and everything’s clicking nicely.
Oh God no no no. They’re WAKING JULIET UP? Now? To watch him die? You BASTARDS
Cutting the soundtrack after Romeo does puts a lot of faith in Claire to pull things off. Good thing she’s great at scared menace.
Okay, that thing I said about guns spicing up the suicide scenes? Yeah. That.
Oh God her blood’s on his face ew ew eeeeeeeeew. Yeah yeah symbolic, sure, but Christ.
Remember that thing I said about this version being additive? Yeah, the closing montage is a good example of that. Love Shakespeare adaptations taking advantage of the medium they’re in.
Once again, good cut. Having the Friar summarize the last two acts is a damp squib of a note to end the play on. Having the Montagues and Capulets watch their children’s corpses dragged away is better.
“ALL! ARE! PUNISHÈD!” Okay, maybe Prince by way of Samuel L. Jackson isn’t a perfect approach
Ooh, I’m liking the credits. Nice, soft, understated music. Incredible contrast with the beginning.
This movie is such a sucker punch. Starts off loud, noisy, and obnoxious, then gambles that it can switch modes into genuinely poignant.
It pulls it off with aplomb. There are quite a few nitpicks to be made, but they quickly fade in the light of all the fantastic details and choices.
So, overall? I adored it. Luhrmann goes all in, packing the movie chock-full of slightly off-kilter decisions that animate it like no other version I’ve seen. The cast is generally great, aside from a couple weak spots, and the adapted script is nearly impeccable. Bravo.
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