Film Review – Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Title – Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Director – Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby)

Cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Paul Rudd, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlethwaite

Plot – Members of two warring families, Romeo (DiCaprio) falls in love with Juliet (Danes) as the two try to figure out how to live a life in a world that seems impossible to exist in as a couple.

“Did my heart love ’til now? Forswear its sight. For I never saw true beauty ’til this night”

Review by Eddie on 26/05/2020

There’s been many an adaptation of the Bard’s various works, whether it be for screen, stage or other mediums, but it’s safe to say there haven’t been many adaptations of Shakespeare’s works adapted quite like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

A colour infused ADHD like incarnation of the famed story of doomed lovers, which sees the action transported from ancient England to a modern day Verona Beach (really an LA set piece), Luhrmann’s version of this timeless romance is certainly not for everyone and not as refined narratively as one would like but there’s no denying there’s an energy and verve to this outing that is rarely found in feature films.

Not a director renowned for his restraint, Luhrmann holds nothing back as he wastes little time introducing us to the world of teenager’s Romeo and Juliet, members of the Montague and Capulet families respectively, two warring families that would rather see death come upon them than somehow see their bloodline merged into one.

From the moment we open the film through a series of whirlwind news stories that lead into an eclectic gas stop run-in between the feuding tribes, Luhrmann stops at nothing on his quest to breathe new life into the 100’s year old tale, with a collection of OTT costumes, set-pieces, pop music and vibrant cast to keep things moving along at a breakneck pace.

Lucking out by snaring a young and ready for action Leonardo DiCaprio and a never more charismatic Claire Danes to portray the films central couple, a solid chemistry between the two cements Romeo + Juliet as a definitive film of the era for a certain demographic and one of Luhrmann’s most hip affairs, that stands above Moulin Rouge and Australia for accessibility for a wider range of viewers, even if it’s unlikely those of the boomer variety would find much to love here.

It’s a shame that all of the films energy, hyperactivity and abundance of pizzazz can’t be found in its ability to craft an emotive experience, as the story of these two teenage love birds has lasted centuries due to the ability it had connecting with readers emotionally and that’s never really found here in this exercise of style over substance, we as viewers are always wowed by the visual and technical but not so much the beating heart at the core of the story.

Final Say –

A unique beast that is sure to divide Shakespeare scholars right down the line between love and hatred, Romeo + Juliet is a visually stunning show that never quite manages to mold its craftsmanship with a winning adaptation of its source material.

3 fish tanks out of 5

8 responses to “Film Review – Romeo + Juliet (1996)

  1. I remember watching this for the first time.

    Me: Did he just say ‘I am f@#ked in full?”
    Friend 1: ‘I am fortune’s fool.’
    Friend 2: I don’t know; I think that’s a valid interpretation of the text.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more… However, as a young lady when I first saw this movie, hot damn it was sseeexxyyyy! 😂 The movie could’ve been complete crap and I would’ve given it a 10/10 because Leo was in his prime!

    • Oh I can only imagine! I know a few who have said that at the time this was such a big deal. I have no doubt that Leo was a main reason of this.

  3. I was not a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio until I saw him in The Revenant. My desire to see Baz’s Romeo + Juliet was fueled by my adoration of Claire Danes and the film’s art direction. For many years, I liked the soundtrack more than the film itself — and it’s one of the best soundtracks ever. After a few repeat viewings, I’ve taken pleasure in its being a product of the mid-90s.

    • It is most certainly about as 90’s as you’d get! Agree on the soundtrack, it’s probably one of the best examples of music for material in feature films.

  4. I think Baz Luhrman is really polarising him. I am a big fan of hyperreality so I LOVE him. I have studied Romeo and Juliet at various times during my education and this particular adaptation really captures the adolescent irrationality of the original so well.

    • You’re so right Abbi. I am actually really keen to see his Elvis biopic, I think that could be a very interesting project!

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