Film Scouts Reviews

"Romeo + Juliet"

by Benjamin Ibrahim

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This very updated classic seems like an MTV dance party got their script replaced with Shakespeare. And got into it. Strangely enough, that combination seems to work. Soaked in suave style, the sexy young cast whips through Elizabethan English like it was a hit song on the pop charts. Capulets in tight black, and "The Montague Boys" sporting white-boy surfer fashion, the feuding families of Verona Beach flex, fondle, and fight point blank from beginning to disastrous end. Edited like an Andre Agassi Nike commercial, the film flies fast and fierce towards its fiery finish, letting up only momentarily for some nice T&A between Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes). The chemistry between the "star cross'd" lovers is actually fairly good, and well supplemented with underwater shots, between-the-sheets shots, rock star love songs, and lots of other kissy-kissy stuff. Good for a starry-eyed date.

Combining contemporariness and period-ness in a very unconventional way, director Baz Luhrmann ("Strictly Ballroom") sticks fairly close to the play's original language, while throwing around sets, costume, and casting like it was 1999. The opening "Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?" sequence takes place at a filling station, with Montague and Capulet tempers flaring as they gas up their rich-boy cars. Mercutio (Harold Perrineau) shows up as a cock-diesel black transvestite who does a mean Priscilla-(Queen of the Desert)-esque cabaret routine at the Capulet Ball. If for nothing else, this film is worth seeing just for the costumes and decor. Amazing how far that, and the language of Shakespeare, can carry a film.

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