I am a sucker for Shakespeare on the big screen. It truly brings out the nerd in me, and Mrs. Finney, my ninth grade English teacher (who taught me Romeo and Juliet), would probably be proud of my unwavering excitement. Earlier this year, we were treated to Joss Whedon's silly, romantic take on Much Ado About Nothing, complete with Firefly roster and a jazzy soundtrack. A new, lavish Romeo and Juliet hit theaters last week, and I have to say I never thought I would like the adults so much. Those pesky kids!
I think my biggest problem with this adaptation is that Romeo and Juliet are boring as all get out. They are played by Douglas Booth and True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld. I think she's better than him. The first time we see Booth, he's carving a bust for his unrequited love, Rosaline. His shirt is open--all sweaty and nipply. He looks older and sexier than I remember Romeo being. Yes, Leo DiCaprio was a Tiger Beat dream in Baz Luhrmann's take from 1996, but he still exuded an innocence. Steinfeld, on the other hand is young and smiley. Their first meeting really shows their age difference, and, I have to admit, it made me a little uncomfortable. Their age difference eventually didn't bother me, but the scene where they meet at Capulet's masked party was kind of ruined for me.
What I took away was an appreciation for the production and costume design. The film features big tapestries and murals that made me coo. I will take this over anything done with a green screen.
Let's talk about the one thing I couldn't wrap my head around. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes added scenes into this version. If you are going to do a big, grand, traditional version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, why would you add stuff in? I don't want to see Tybalt training for his fight with Romeo. And I definitely don't want to see Friar Laurence run into the tomb and have discussion with Juliet before she stabs herself. I was freaking out inside when that extraneous exchange happened. Maybe I am a purist, or maybe I just don't understand how to adapt something.
I really liked Lesley Manville as the Nurse, and Damian Lewis, as Lord Capulet, made me want to watch Homeland even more. Other than that, no one really stood out to me. The changes distracted me from the beauty of the language.