Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shakespeare Series: Romeo + Juliet


Staring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy, Paul Rudd,
Director: Baz Luhrmann

How do you make a disaster of one of Shakespeare’s best works? It’s hard to imagine, but if something is made that looks like this train wreck, you’ve done it.

An unoriginal reworking of the story, in this case it is set as a modern day American gang story, it stays far too “true” to the original play to a point of absurdity. Instead of actually adapting it like the amazing West Side Story – review pending – they stuck far too close to the original play to “update” it so much. Perhaps they were going for the uniqueness of having it set “today” with people speaking the original lines and instead of toting bladed weapons – they walk around with “Swords” and “Dagger” guns. It seems very clever, until you realize how corny it is. On stage you can set these plays in any time period – its part of the fun unique way of doing it on stage.

I’ve seen “Two Gentlemen of Verona” as “Two Gentlemen of Verona Beach” – and it worked. A film adaptation would most likely be a disaster. Hey, wait a minute Romeo + Juliet was set in Verona Beach as well – and it didn’t work on the big screen. The thing that makes it work in that case is the limitations of the stage – you can’t dilute the story visually very much.

The first time I watched it I realized that the film would not work was towards the beginning – a fight at a gas station seemed to have been filmed by a maniac on a mixture of speed and cocaine. Bullets ricochet off of indescript objects, and cut back to them often in the fight. This is all in between John Leguizamo’s extremely fanatical “laughter” – which I suppose was supposed to set the mood of his character. Instead it just made the scene look like it was filled by a complete amateur who was trying to cut a 5 minute scene with 2 minutes of footage. It’s mostly downhill from there.

Verdict: **/*****

1 comment:

Matt Ramone said...

Add it to the list of Bazz's crimes, including that horrendous "Sunscreen" song.

Personally, I liked Leguizamaramadingdong's performance, but that's because I thought Tybalt was the only real compelling character in that whole play. I love how it's become The Greatest Love Story of All Time when it's about two 13-year-olds who knew each other less than a week before acting like MySpace douches - "God, my parents SUCK and my girl's gone! I'm gonna kill myself!" When someone refers to themselves as a Romeo, I assume that they mean they're melodramatic pussbags.