With the recent re–release of Titanic in 3D, it seemed high time to take a look at another one of Leo DiCaprio’s teen–heartthrob vehicles to see if the 90s classic aged better than he has.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrmann, moves the famous tale from Verona to a modern city, circa 1996. Luhrmann directs with a flourish characteristic of many music videos, and it’s not hard to imagine this film’s intended audience, a generation reared by MTV, that’s bombarded by salacious tabloid headlines and high–speed marketing. Luhrmann all but buries his story with such ploys, prompting the question — why would anyone mix such serious fare with the ultimate in popcorn entertainment?
Language is the only element of the Shakespeare original held sacred in this update, and it definitely feels the strain of the update. But the tricks occasionally pay off, investing the story with a fervor that is somewhat lacking in the staid 1968 version. After all, this is a film about two teenagers who go nuts for each other. Its loud, frenetic vibe feels oddly suited to the material.
The film ultimately succeeds on the strength of its two leads, who fight through the clutter to locate the soul of this tragedy.