Movie #65: Romeo + Juliet (1996)


Director: Baz Luhrmann

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Rudd

A television anchorwoman reports on the tragic death of two star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.  The reports of the gang wars between the Montague and Capulet families escalate and ultimately doom the two lovers who meet by chance and instantly fall in love.

I found it somewhat appropriate to review this movie following Shakespeare in Love since it’s another version of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, and I hadn’t ever seen it before.  I remember when it came out, but I was too young to see it and just haven’t ever gotten around to watching until now.

Needless to say, I was surprised, confused, a bit put off, but ultimately enjoyed parts of this movie.  It took some time to adjust to the Shakespearean dialogue in a modern context.  While I didn’t like it at first, I got used to it.  It also didn’t help that the beginning involved mostly the supporting cast and not the two leads, Romeo (DiCaprio) and Juliet (Danes).romeojuliet1

Romeo and Juliet’s first encounter was charming.  The young love and the fact that they were immediately smitten with each other was nice.  I liked the filming as they looked at each other through the fish tank.  As their love developed. they do a good job of showing the young love and breaking through their families quarrels.  The balcony scenes were nice, but I feel they could have been better.  It just seemed like something was missing.

romeojuliet3 romeojuliet4

Mercutio (Perrineau) was not what I expected.  Maybe I need to go back and see what kind of character he was in the original play.  The flamboyant entrance he had before the party was, well, weird to say the least.  He redeemed himself, though, as he put the curse on both households right before he died.

I don’t know how I feel about John Leguizamo as Tybalt.  While I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head that would do better, there was just something about him that I didn’t like.  Maybe it was his role in the opening to the movie, or how confusing the film was prior to Romeo and Juliet meeting.  Either way I was somewhat surprised by his performance, and not in a good way.


Of all the supporting cast it was Father Lawrence (Postlethwaite) that I enjoyed the most.  I feel that he had the best grasp of the Shakespearean timing and remained truest to the original play.

A lot of the dialogue seemed rushed throughout the film.  I’ve gotten used to watching most movies with subtitles.  It’s a habit I took up after my Masterpieces of Film class in college.  It was incredibly beneficial for this movie.


Romeo + Juliet is a modern take of Shakespeare’s original play, and in certain ways it’s refreshing and different.  However, it has become horribly dated since its release, and was a little off-putting for me.  DiCaprio and Danes definitely show their acting talents at their young age, but in the end that makes this movie tolerable and occasionally enjoyable for me.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.


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