William Shakespeare's Romeo Juliet (1996)

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William Shakespeare's Romeo Juliet (1996) Movie Review


Setting Shakespeare's tragedy of Romeo and Juliet to music by the likes of the Butthole Surfers probably has The Bard rolling in his grave, but what the hell, it's open season on the classics these days. I won't even pretend that I understand all the nuance and symbolism of Luhrmann's instantly popular retelling of the tale, but I will say that this is one of the most entertaining renditions of any Shakespearean work I've seen to date.

Closer to an update of West Side Story than anything else, what makes this rendition of the "two star-crossed lovers" saga stand out is dialogue which is largely faithful to the text set against a post-modern backdrop frighteningly reminiscent of Los Angeles. While it's a thrill to watch (if you can avoid a headache), it's maddeningly hard to follow and considerably self-conscious. Plus there's the issue of a soundtrack that's probably sold more copies than the film did tickets.... Will this version survive the test of time? Probably not, but it will forever stand out as an amazing and powerful experiment in filmmaking.

If you dismissed the movie as kids' stuff in its theatrical release, think again, and get thee to a video merchant.

Now released as a special edition DVD, Romeo + Juliet's digital highlight is its commentary with Luhrmann and his co-conspirators plus various behind-the-scenes interviews and other features.


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