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USA 1996
Directed by
Baz Luhrmann
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet

Baz Luhrmann's lavish, hip re-working of the Shakespearean classic substitutes visual hecticness for true energy and whatever merits there may be in the idea of updating The Bard to a contemporary setting (in this case Miami ganglands) the actual outcome sacrifices the formal beauty of Shakespeare’s language to a welter of pop cultural pyrotechnics.

The power of Shakespearean theatre is in the language itself and relies almost entirely on the skill of the performers to carry it to the audience's unfettered imagination. Which is why theatrical directors so often opt for minimalist décor (as no doubt would have been the case when the play was originally performed).

Luhrmann inverts this relationship: the art direction is excessive, the camera work and editing restless, the leads, Claire Danes and a then relatively unknown Leonardo Di Caprio are well out of their depth and across the board what is discernible of Shakespeare’s language is drowned by the mundane delivery (of the cast only Pete Postlethwaite and Miriam Margoyles, who both have considerable stage experience, manage to deliver their lines with conviction). All this is infused with an eclectic soundtrack which easily rates as the best thing about the film.




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