This is a very cool adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play. It’s set in fair Verona, where two families, the Capulet and the Montague, are in war. But Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are madly in love, no matter what their relatives think of each other. The film follows the original story very closely, except that the action is set nowadays. Guns replace swords and cars replace horses. I’ll admit that this ain’t a film for purists (they better go for the Zeffirelli version) and that the dialogue is sometimes difficult to understand (these ain’t Shakespearan actors!), but this film has so much to offer. The visual style is very original and flashy, Baz Luhrmann’s direction is extremely inventive, the editing is dynamic as hell and the soundtrack is very, very, very good (favorite song cue: choirboy version of Prince’s When Doves Cry).
The cast is brilliant. Romeo is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s a teen hearthrob but also a truly great actor, and Claire Danes plays Juliet, a difficult role, but she is flawless in it, very natural and well, very pretty. The chemistry between them is great, their scenes together are very touching and that scene in which they meet for the first time is unique. I would watch the film endlessly just for that scene, just for the way Claire Danes takes my breath away every time. She’s a goddess! She’s an angel! “For I never saw true beauty till this night.”
“Romeo + Juliet” is deeply entertaining, from the gripping opening to the breath-taking finale. It all ends with Radiohead’s brilliant Exit Music (for a film), which closes the film perfectly. It sure is an awesome film, doing justice to what is undoubtedly one of the greatest love stories of all times and a wonderful middle installment in the Red Curtain Trilogy. Like all of Baz’ movies, it’s a madcap cross between Broadway, Bollywood and Betty Boop, and it uses a particular device to convey L’amour. Whereas “Strictly Ballroom” used dance and “Moulin Rouge!” used song, here it comes through Shakespeare’s heightened 400-year-old language. And it works, it really does!