Blu-ray Review: Romeo + Juliet
Perhaps the greatest love story of all time, Romeo and Juliet is a timeless play that is near impossible to stage in less than riveting fashion, and yet Carlo Carlei’s 2013 film adaptation managed to dull the material sensationally. Carlei is known for his work on several Italian tv movies, which helps clarify why the staging and timing in the film looks and feels so subpar. Shakespeare’s flawless material is further tarnished by screenwriter Julian Fellows (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park)’s need to insert additional unnecessary dialogue, which, instead of modernizing the text, reminds the audience why the play was perfectly compact and inimitable as is.
The tragic tale of woe follows the star crossed love affair between Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, whose families are at the height of a bitter rivalry. Playing the titular young lovers, Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld both stumble on the material and it often seems that they’re posing for a Teen Vogue spread together, instead of emoting rapturous, all consuming passion. Supporting players fare far better, particularly Paul Giamatti as Friar Lawrence (a role he takes on with ease and grace), scene chewing Ed Westwick as Tybalt, and the always reliable Lesley Manville as Juliet’s concerned nurse and comedic foil.
In one of the disc’s four all too brief featurettes (which often replay the same behind the scenes footage and soundbites), it is said that the filmmakers wanted to rejuvenate the story for a new, young generation. It is mind boggling, however, to wonder how this is in any way a new spin on the classic tale. Both Zeffirelli and Luhrmann’s film adaptations were unique and had each of their auteur’s respective signature mise en scene, yet this version lacks anything fresh and unfamiliar, and, as a result, is numbing to watch.