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Romance February Guest Review: Romeo + Juliet

Posted on the 14 February 2012 by Impsndcnma @impsndcnma

It’s Valentines Day and what better way to celebrate the Day of Love than by watching one of the greatest and most well-known romance stories of all time, Romeo + Juliet.

There have been many re-tellings of this famous story but none of them compares to the masterpiece that is Baz Luhrman’s film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. This film has become the benchmark for Shakespeare films at reaching a younger generation whom may not have been interested in ever watching a movie set in the Shakespearean world.

I remember going to the cinema with my girlfriend at the time to watch it. You know, trying to be the good boyfriend sitting through a love story that she wanted to see, politely keeping my opinions to myself. Then the movie started and I sat there, awestruck. The film grabbed my attention from the beginning and didn’t let go until the final credits! I walked out of the movie that day a fan of William Shakespeare, a fan of Baz Luhrman, and more importantly, a fan of Romeo and Juliet.

The story of Romeo and Juliet can be considered the greatest love story ever told because of the overwhelming and all-consuming love that they had for each other. Love that took priority above all else. It was more important than family, blood feuds, hatred, and eventually life.

Baz Luhrman had his work cut out for himself. How do you bring such a well-known story to the big screen and engage a whole new generation of film-goers who may not be too interested in watching a film based on a 400 year old play spoken in, basically, a different language?

The formula that he used turned out to be the perfect one;

Modern day setting + Action packed scenes + Charismatic cast + Original text = Epic!

Romance February Guest Review: Romeo + Juliet
Setting the film in modern-day allowed for a unique take on the Capulets and the Montagues. From customized cars with personalized plates, to clothes worn by the gangs – Montagues in the Hawaiian shirts and the Capulets in stylish religious-themed street wear, to using the Shakespearean term “sword” for their guns, and the updating of Prince to a Captain for the Police Department.

Leonardo DiCaprio was the perfect leading man and suited Romeo to a tee. His star was on the rise after making an impact on Hollywood in The Basketball Diaries, The Quick and the Dead, and This Boy’s Life. In his role as Romeo, DiCaprio was able to deliver a searing performance as the romantic idealist, the man of action, and finally desperate lover.

It’s hard to imagine DiCaprio as anything other than the superstar leading man that he is today but it’s important to note that he was so passionate about the role of Romeo that he took part in a short audition video filmed by Luhrman to convince the film backers of his ability to play the role.

The scenes between DiCaprio and Danes range from the sweet to the intense but the one thing that remains consistent is the chemistry between the two. I believed that the two of them were star-crossed lovers and even though the events of story are over the top, they manage to make you believe that they are taking the best course of action.

Romance February Guest Review: Romeo + Juliet
The soundtrack to the movie is also one of the best! Including music from Garbage, Everclear, One Inch Punch, The Cardigans, Des’ree, Radiohead, Gavin Friday, and Quindon Tarver. Most movies have one great moment where the use of a soundtrack is just perfect for the scene, Romeo + Juliet has 2 such moments. The first is the use of Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’ during the first kiss scene during the masquerade ball. It was a subtle song that underscored a tender scene. The second moment is Radiohead’s ‘Talk Show Host’ during the introduction of Romeo along Verona Beach. The song is a fitting introduction to a character whom is dealing with the disappointment of love and the sorrow that he feels.

Let’s not forget that the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack also contained the brilliant ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrman and featuring Quindon Tarver. The song is wonderful addition to an already impressive soundtrack but has some of the best life advice you will ever receive. The song’s lyrics are from an essay ‘Advice, like youth, probably wasted on the young’ written by Mary Schmich.

Baz Luhrman has crafted the definitive version of not only Romeo + Juliet but of an adaptation of a Shakespeare play. Since it’s release in 1996, many others have been inspired to create a modern-day Shakespeare plays with mixed results. Whether or not you agree that this is the ultimate adaptation of Shakespeare, you must admit that it made an impact in 1996 that is still being felt today.

I believe that the reason the story of Romeo and Juliet strikes a chord with most people who either read the play or watch the movies is because we can identify with some part of what the characters are going through. Hopefully not to the same extent, but to a lesser degree where we have experienced the overriding passion for another person. The all-consuming love that rules our thoughts, decision-making, and common-sense that allows us to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows.

Whether we experience this Romeo and Juliet-esque love when we’re youthful or more experienced in life, the one thing is clear, love consumes all.

Happy Valentines Day

[Written by: Russell Clark of 137exactly.com]

4 Hearts / 5

* Part of Romance February 2012

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