William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the most popular stories ever written. As a result, it’s also been one of the most adapted plays, especially within the last century. It’s been 17 years since we last saw a gaudy adaptation of the timeless classic. Here we are again, looking at another period piece about this famous romance. While Carlo Carlei’s version is truer to the source material, its over-the-top quality makes it hard to love.
- Director: Carlo Carlei
- Screenwriter: Julian Fellowes
- Cast: Douglas Booth, Hailee Steinfeld, Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Stellan Skarsgård, Ed Westwick, Natascha McElhone, Tom Wisdom
- Cinematography by: David Tattersall
- Original Music by: Abel Korzeniowski
Two families are in the heat of an epic war. But they face a greater challenge when their children, the lovelorn Romeo (Booth) and sweet Juliet (Steinfeld), fall madly in love with each other.
- Giamatti: When it comes to actors, Paul Giamatti is one of the best out there. He’s staying in tune with the over-the-top nature of this story, but slips in his own twists and nuances to the Shakespearian dialogue. In some ways, you can categorize him as the surprising comic relief as he breathes life into this overdone tale.
- Production Design/Costumes: There’s always a chance the wardrobe and production design of a period piece will be too gaudy for its own good. Thankfully, in this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, that’s not the case. Some inklings of this era seep into the coloration in certain outfits or rooms, but it’s still gorgeous to see. We wouldn’t be surprised if people try to recreate some of Juliet’s outfits, particularly her masquerade attire.
- Steinfeld: This young actress burst onto the scene a couple years ago, impressing audiences with her performance in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit. She’s gone from a tough-as-nails girl to the most lovesick teenager literature’s ever given us. She has an air of radiance and purity that should always be emitting from this character but isn’t always. Steinfeld’s performance reminds us of the sweet beauty that Juliet has always encompassed.
- Direction/Score: Carlo Carlei must have a crazy fascination with using a slow zoom in every other scene. They along with the camera angles were only amplified by the nature of the story. It could have been toned down just a bit if he wanted to. The score also has a lot to do with the cheese factor in this interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. We adore Abel Korzeniowski, mainly because he did the score for A Single Man. We’re not entirely sure what the discussions were between him and Carlei, but the director’s soft style was pushed out by this loud, never-ending barrage of orchestral sounds. But it’s okay Korzeniowski, we still think you’re a great composer.
- Hamming It Up: It’s hard to keep a straight face while watching incredibly intense scenes with actors like Damian Lewis or Ed Westwick. They give such crazy performances that they come off as laughable. Carlei could have tried to tone it down instead of letting these talented actors go off the rails. There’s a considerable amount of drama within the story but the audience shouldn’t be laughing when we find our two lovers dead. Then again, it’s not entirely the director’s fault either. Westwick, who played Tybalt, was ridiculously flustered throughout the duration of his character’s appearance. Everything about his performance as the angry cousin was too much. It spread all the way to his consistently flared nostrils which distracted us during some key scenes.
This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is too corny for our taste, but it’s still entertaining in its own way.
The Rating: 6/10
Romeo and Juliet is out in theaters now.
Will you be seeing Romeo and Juliet this weekend?