Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shakespeare and Movies

I'm currently about ten or eleven book reviews behind, but I don't want to write one right now.  There was recently a list of Shakespeare adaptations on Pajiba, and it kind of put me in the mood for some Shakespearian films.  I hadn't seen Baz Luhrman's William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in ages, but I quickly procured a copy to watch.  I remember loving this when I first saw this - I was in junior high (I watched it shortly after seeing My So-Called Life for the first time, and Claire Danes was definitely the main reason I wanted to see it), and I had it on VHS.  However, I also remember that I stopped in the middle last time I tried watching it because it was too ADD.  Rewatching it almost ten years later was definitely interesting.
I never have thought that Romeo and Juliet was a great love story - as much as I love the language, I felt like both of them were spoiled brats.  Juliet just wanted to get away from her parents, and Romeo's feeling were inconsistent at best given that he was enamored with Rosaline when he went to the ball, only to fall for Juliet.  However, rewatching this movie as an adult actually put that in perspective - they were teenagers.  Of course that's how they would act - I couldn't believe how young Claire Danes and especially Leonardo Dicaprio looked!  It made me feel old.
I was kind of amused by all the supporting actors in this as well - when Juliet rejects Paul Rudd's Paris, I just wanted to tell her, "go with Paul Rudd; Leonardo might be hot, and I get the appeal, but watch his other movies, he has some serious wife issues.  Life with Paul Rudd would be much more fun."  And I couldn't believe that Mercutio was played by Michael from Lost.  I kept waiting for him to start yelling for Walt.  Really, that seems to be his sole function as an actor: walk around yelling loudly while also pouting.
I had a few of my usual reactions to this film as well, such as questioning why Juliet would be so quick to threaten suicide rather than maybe running away.  I also think Luhrman's decision to have Romeo hang out in a trailer park was odd - his family owns half of Verona, and his father couldn't spring for a nice penthouse somewhere out of town once his son is banished to a "fate worse than death" as he so dramatically puts it?  Mostly though, I really would like to know how that priest even got a job.  Because, seriously, he was rather incompentent with delusions of grandeur - "I can heal the rift between two families after decades of feuding" - yeah, okay, good luck with that.  You might actually want to tell them what you did then.  Or then when he was so worried about whether or not Romeo got his message?  Maybe he should have just hung around Juliet's tomb to see if he would show up, and fill him in then.  Of course, the priest's incompetence is even more pronounced in the actual play version: as I recall, he walks into the tomb to find Juliet alive with a dead Romeo, tells Juliet they can hide her in a nunnery, and walks back out to take care of some business arrangements, leaving an over-emotional teenager alone in a tomb with a pile of bodies.  Genius plan.  She had definitely killed herself by the time he got back.  Speaking of Juliet's death, she was very selfish in the movie: she wakes up to find her lover dying and her first reaction is to chastize Romeo for not leaving her some poison - very thoughtful.  Exactly the type of person I would want around to comfort me.
Of course being Baz Lurhman, the music played a huge role in the film, and I liked the music much more this time around - my tastes have definitely changed over the years.  I still liked the movie but it and the soundtrack all felt very '90s.  There are several shots of stages throughout the film, and while I realize this was as a tribute to the fact that this is a play, it also made me think of his film Moulin Rouge.  The movie didn't resonate with me as strongly as it did when I was a teenager.  On the other hand, I actually enjoyed 10 Things I Hate About You more when I recently rewatched it but that may have to do with my changed view of Heath Ledger.  And JGL.

1 comment:

The Caustic Critic said...

I love Shakespeare, but I truly despise Romeo & Juliet. Everyone in it is whiny and annoying--the only character I like is Mercutio, and he dies almost immediately. For the faked death/star-crossed love tropes, I much prefer Much Ado About Nothing (Branaugh film version is tops).