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Movie Review

Romeo and Juliet

Reviewed by: Ken James

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romantic Drama/Tragedy
120 min.
Year of Release:

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Paul Rudd, Paul Sorvino, Diane Venora, Brian Dennehy, Christina Pickles, Pete Postlethwalte, Miriam Margoyles / Director: Baz Luhrmann

If it’s true that every generation has its version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, this one is certainly that of the MTV generation. With an overabundance of up-close-and-personal shots and lighting-speed camera movements, this shallow in-your-face adaptation is unique, to say the least.

The setting takes us to the surrealistic/futuristic city of “Verona Beach,” a take-off of the initial setting of Verona. While the words to this story are the very same as those penned by Shakespeare centuries ago, we are slapped into a pseudo present day culture complete with gun-toting youth, gang warfare, cross-dressing, violence, domestic abuse, sensuality, and an overall disregard for anything sacred. Ironically, religion overshadows the entire film. Filmed in Mexico City, the crucifix or the virgin Mary are pictured in nearly every shot throughout the film. On the bright side, profanity is non-existent (a nice change from most Hollywood productions) and Romeo and Juliet are joined in matrimony by Friar Laurence before engaging in any passion beyond lip-locking.

When faced with this present day scenario to this age-old story, one’s perspective can be altered to see nothing more than two young teens believing that their love runs so deep they must be together forever. Is this truly a story of love, or of young lust? And why should suicide be elevated as it is in this tragic story (hopefully enough of us are familiar with this play to know the story and the ending!). While I appreciated very little of this excessive film, others I knew enjoyed it… why I cannot say.

Viewer Comments
I am an avid Shakespeare reader and I thought “Romeo and Juliet” was an excellent movie. Granted, several of the critical aspects were missing (Paris' death, etc.). However, the movie managed to be a relativly good adaption of the origional text. I would not recommend the movie for anyone younger than 13 due to the violence and portrayal of teen sex. I do feel that we must remember Shakespeare did include these issues in his play. When Juliet says “O, I have bought the mansion of a love, But not yet possessed it; and though I am sold, Not yet enjoyed,” she isn’t talking about coloring! I also feel that, unlike some of Shakespeare’s other characters from other plays, we must remember that Romeo and Juliet are married before their night spent together.
—Amy, age 18
I loved this movie. I thought Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes did great playing Romeo and Juliet. I thought that it was very creative how they stayed with the original script and still made it a modern movie version of the play. (eg. the way they had the brand name or the type of gun be “sword” or “dagger”) I admit some parts were a little dumb, but I think the director and the actors all did a wonderful job. I think this movie is not for young children because it does have a love scene between Romeo and Juliet. They were married at the time but hey, they still didn’t have to have it in there. It also has Mercucio dressed as a woman but, that was for the costume party. It’s not like he was like that through the whole movie. It also had violence which wasn’t extremly gory but it was still violence (eg. Romeo and Juiet killing themselves. Juliet shooting herself in the head. Romeo gunning down Tybalt.) I still loved this movie and I’ve reccomended it to most of my friends who also loved it.
—Kim, age 14
I found this movie ridiculous. It’s like a MTV party Shakespeare style. Pretty pitiful. Teen sex is implied with plenty of violence and offensive entertainment perfect for atheists who love Shakespeare. Anyway, I highly recommend this movie to no one.
—Daniel, age 14
I totally disagree that the movie was inappropriate. I think it was an awesome movie, and deserved more than a “1” from you guys. I think Shakespeare would be proud because the characters portrayed those which he made up long ago. Since it is set in more modern times, it makes sense to people who don’t really understand all the shakespearian lingo.
I agree that the movie is for the “MTV” generation. I only lasted about 10 minutes into the film before needing to leave due to visual overload.
—Lance Robinson, age 37
Did everyone read the same Romeo and Juliet in High School that I did? What better representation of Shakespeare’s mind could you ask for? He was a playwrite who wrote for the lower class of society constantly using sex, violence, and secularism to entertain. Shakespeare may be one of the greatest authors of all time, but just like filmmakers today, he only wanted to sell-out his plays. This movie only shows what was in the authors original intentions.
—Chris Francis, age 21
Romeo and Juliet was a good movie as a whole. The ending should have stuck closer to the book. It was an interesting interpretation. It showed the romance between Romeo and Juliet very well. When Mercutio dressed as a woman for the party I was very surprised and disgusted. That was the most inapropriate part. It’s not the kind of movie that you want to take your mom to see.
—Nicole Greene, age 15
I’m just wondering how a movie that one person characterized as “one you wouldn’t want to take your mom to see” can be something God would want you to see. I think our generation (teens and young adults) has been blinded by Satan’s attack on our minds and hearts through many of the movies we watch. How God weeps…
—E.J. Burch, age 20
I was going to generate my own response until I read that of Jennifer Nicholas. I concur with Jennifer and can’t pan the movie, but I would caution those who would venture to see *any* of Shakespeare’s material (as it requires much discernment).
—Joy Webb, age 28
After seeing this movie I, at first, found it hard to even articulate what I thought of it. But I don’t think it’s right to disregard it as only an “MTV” version of the play. It seemed to me that the strength of the movie was in bringing out a central theme: extremes of emotion lead to sorrow and pain. I thought it was very effective in portraying the dangers of love and hate when untempered by rational thought and decisions. That, in my mind, is a valuable and timeless lesson.
—Jennifer Nicholas, age 18
Juliet and Romeo were the only really likeable people in the entire movie! I was disgusted by Romeo’s best friend dressing like a woman for the party. It was a pretty lame movie, no doubt.
—John, age 23