MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Visionary director Baz Luhrmann takes a new look at the classic William Shakespeare tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.” As the second installment in his honored Red Curtain Trilogy, the play is adapted to modern-day Los Angeles. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Romeo Montague, whose family is at odds with the Capulets. Yet he meets Juliet Capulet and falls in love with her before learning she is from the forbidden family. Two star-crossed lovers face a tragic fate in this colorful and visually brilliant adaptation.
WHAT I LIKED
My first introduction to Baz Luhrmann’s work was his epic romance “Australia,” which I enjoyed but wasn’t blown away. Now that Fox has re-released the last two films in his Red Curtain Trilogy, it has been a treat to finally experience them. And with Disney re-releasing the first part (“Strictly Ballroom”) in November, this makes a great purchase on Blu-ray.
To someone my age, most of my exposure to “Romeo and Juliet” has been reading the play in high school or watching the adaptation with Olivia Hussey. Those are, of course, quality works, but it’s really cool to see this film in the modern (or at least late-90s) world. Being a timeless classic, the story works today as much as it did hundreds of years ago.
What differentiates this film from so many other previous adaptations is the visionary style of Baz Luhrmann. With his theatrical experience under his belt, he deals with the original source material with plenty of respect. It’s not a rewritten “West Side Story” version but the play itself told in a different setting.
Luhrmann is definitely a visual director, and even when the story isn’t moving forward, his films are a treat to watch. They are full of color and dynamic movement that brings the viewer into the film. Luhrmann achieves a hyper-real experience but still allows the actors to shine through and relate to the audience.
Of course, one of the best things about “Romeo + Juliet” is that it is probably the most relateable adaptation to a younger audience. Even though this film is more than ten years old, it’s modern elements are still something kids can connect with. On the whole, it’s a fantastic introduction to Shakespeare for the novice and the young.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
What’s not to like about Shakespeare. Sure, it’s loaded with cliches, but that’s because this was the story that started a lot of these cliches. You can find flaws all you want in the film, but it’s more elements of a story that is hundreds of years old.
I know some Shakespeare purists may criticize “Romeo + Juliet” for being a little too frenetic or hyper-real. There’s a few “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” sound cues, but those are more an element of the 90s than anything else.
The new Blu-ray includes a wealth of special features, taking advantage of the new format. First and most immersive is the “Shaking Up Shakespeare” picture-in-picture mode which includes an audio commentary and behind the scenes information.
There’s also uncut footage from the Luhrmann Vault, which includes vintage elements of the behind-the-scenes. A featurette “Romeo + Juliet: The Music” examines the modern music score. Finally, there’s filmmaker and other interview galleries, plus access to BD-Live and Live Lookup via IMDb.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Luhrmann fans and those who want to see a modern adaptation of Shakespeare.