Over the years, there have been many adaptations of the Bard’s ultimate romantic tragedy. However, only a few of them have managed to encapsulate the play’s emotional high points — of love and loss. A film by the same name was released in 1996 starring Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and Homeland actor Claire Danes. Yes, it is William Shakespeare’s Rome and Juliet that I write of.
The two were then young and relatively not so popular. But the movie made them stars and was received well at the box office as well as by critics. For this to happen to any movie would be a welcome surprise, but in this case, it was even more unusual as Romeo and Juliet has been done multiple times and it seemed predictable to present the narrative as the proverbial old wine in new bottle. But filmmaker and co-writer Baz Luhrmann managed to pull out a great trick out of his bag, one that matched his inimitable sense of style with sensitive writing. And lo and behold! We had ourselves a winner.
In the film, which is a modern take on the famous play, the families of Romeo and Juliet are presented as warring parties that cannot stand each other. Sword is replaced by guns, and there are drugs involved. Barring exceptions like these, the director kept the essence of the story intact. Romeo, though pining at that time for someone else, lays eyes on Juliet at a party, and instantly the two are taken by each other. What follows next may seem like the old school Bollywood masala movie to many, with conflicting members of the families chasing after each other, thirsty for blood. Another thing that Luhrmann managed to do via the movie was make us feel that there was nothing out of place even when the leads took turns to sprout flowery dialogues in archaic English. This is a feat to be noted because the setting is, as mentioned before, very urbane. There are delivery services, rushes of a busy city and amid this two mafia families in contemporary America fight each other even as their children swear to be each other’s soulmates till their last breath.
Here is an interesting aside for Paul Rudd fans: You will be pleased to know that the Marvel star pretty much looks the same as he did back in the late 90s. Rudd plays Juliet’s suitor in the romance.
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Romeo and Juliet is a well-shot movie that brings out the best of its leads. Both not only looked lovely, but performed beautifully as well. Danes especially was convincing as Juliet in the role, stunning in her movements and delivery. Her chemistry with DiCaprio was off the charts, as they say. And this is even more astonishing in the light of what we know through numerous reports of alleged rift between the pair. Apparently, Leo and Claire did not get along well at all once the camera was off, which, if there is any truth to it, only proves how good they are at their jobs.
You can watch Romeo and Juliet on Google Play.