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Romeo and Juliet

R + J

What shite through yonder window breaks? – ★

In a famous Monty Python sketch about a cheese shop John Cleese screams at one point “will you shut that bloody bouzouki player up” and I thought the same of the incessant piano playing in this latest bastardisation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. You will note that the film is called simply Romeo and Juliet with no mention of the bard’s name in sight and as the credits roll it mentions it is “adapted” from the play by William Shakespeare. Surely if he was alive today he would stop at nothing to ensure his name appeared nowhere near this film.

Forget the actors or director, the selling point of the film is the fact that this has been penned by luvvie of the moment Julian Fellowes, he who done writ Downton Abbey. There has been quite a kerfuffle in that he hasn’t stayed true to the text with additions and amendments aplenty. Not that he cares a jot, maintaining he’s a writer, but this jars greatly with the period setting. The dialogue is still ye olde English so it is baffling as to why he didn’t go with the original as I greatly doubt this version will attract any new converts.

R+J 2

Plastic or Wooden?

The cast is underwhelming, Damian Lewis as Lord Capulat seems to think he is acting in Carry on Shakespeare and Natascha McElhone as his good lady wife has even less than little to do. Lesley Manville comes out the best as Juliet’s Nurse and Paul Giamatti would be passable although they change and put his character of Friar Laurence where his doesn’t belong, thus making you ultimately hate him. I imagine Stellan Skarsgard was on set for about 3 hours as the Alice in Wonderland like Prince of Verona while Ed Westwick as Tybalt is the definition of a pantomime villain and lets his nostrils do all the acting.

Douglas Booth as Romeo manages to pull off an amazing feat of looking both wooden and plastic simultaneously. We are first introduced to his half naked self as he chisels away at a sculpture. Robert Pattinson obviously wasn’t available nor Kristen Stewart as they seem the ideal casting. You will recognise Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit where she played youngster Mattie Ross and here plays the equally young Juliet. She was 15 when shooting happened and while Juliet is thirteen in the text, times have changed and it makes it hard to believe the passion between the two. Age aside there is zero chemistry between these so called star crossed lovers and the speed of the direction leaves no time for their love to blossom.

Instead of getting a tale of intense unrequited love we have a long advertisement for a hallmark movie of the week. The film is far too brightly lit and trundles along at an unrelenting pace in case you get bored, being stupid and all that. The text has been changed and chopped in an attempt to make is simpler to understand and ultimately just ends up insulting the viewer. This version hopefully will not attract any new fans as it has taken the classic love story and turned it into saccharine dross.

Baz Luhrmann’s take back in 1996 is the definitive modern telling, but if you long for the men in tights hunt down Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaptation which is beautifully shot and tremendously acted. For never was there a version as bad than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

Released across Ireland on October 11th 2013

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