Thursday, February 23, 2023

Disney+ Rewind: Romeo and Juliet

After watching the movie Elvis recently, I decided that it was time to do a re-watch of another Baz Luhrmann movie, the modern-day retelling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Claire Danes.

This is probably the first movie from Baz Luhrmann that I had seen, and I loved every minute of it. During the time that it was shown in cinemas, I was actually in my Shakespeare phase: I had read some of his work and was so fascinated with the stories he had written so it was exciting for me to see it on the big screen. I had already seen the 1968 movie starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting and was already curious about this modern-day interpretation of it. 

It has been 27 years since this version has been in cinemas and I was happy to find out that it was on Disney+. I already own the DVD but since I have not owned a DVD in a long time, watching it on Disney was my first time seeing it in more than a decade. Even today, the movie does not disappoint. 

The way Baz Luhrmann had installed the story in a modern setting, converting each character and each scene in such a way that it would not have been out of place in real life gave me the chills the first time I saw it, and it still does today. Hearing the words from Shakespeare’s work come to life with the visuals and the music in the movie feels so magical to me. 

The colors used in this movie, the costumes,  the props (the witty use of guns with the brand name Sword so that they would fit when the lines call for the word sword/s)…everything was well-thought-of and made the film feel larger than life. There were a lot of scenes that were so visually captivating that they could easily be framed photographs that I would love to hang on my wall. It’s both gritty and beautiful at the same time. I’m a fan of the visuals of this film and I think this attention to visuals becoming a character in itself is something that has carried over to other Luhrmann films too. 

I have to give credit to the actors in this film because they make every word flow naturally even if they are not speaking in a more casual, modern way. Every line is straight from Shakespeare and they found a way to make it work. 

There were so many memorable and iconic characters in the film that I enjoyed seeing again during my rewatch. John Legiuzamo’s portrayal of Tybalt, Harold Perrineau’s Mercutio, Vondie Curtis-Hall as the (Captain) Prince, Miriam Margolyes as Juliet’s nanny, Paul Rudd as Paris, and of course, Leonardo Di Caprio and Claire Danes and the star-crossed lovers themselves.

Not a lot of people would agree with me, but out of all the young Leo films that I’ve seen (including Titanic) this is the role that I loved of him the most. I guess you can say that for me, this is Leo at his most beautiful. I still found myself swooning as I watched him in this movie. His portrayal of the troubled and hopelessly in love Romeo for me is still better than his role in Titanic. 

Claire Danes was good in this movie but I have to admit that I am curious about how this movie would have turned out if another actress played Juliet. I had recently read that Natalie Portman was supposed to play the role but they all agreed that she was too young for it (even if her age was closer to what Juliet was). It would have been an interesting dynamic to have her and Leo act together. 

I enjoyed watching this movie again after all these years. I think that this is something that students would enjoy watching to appreciate the work of William Shakespeare. Putting it in a modern context (although not so modern for our times today) will help people relate to it more than when staged in a more classical setting. 

Would I watch it again? Definitely yes. This is my favorite film version of this story. I loved it!


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