Romeo and Juliet (2013)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this not-so-faithful adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a fairly traditional, straightforward, period piece that will likely appeal to teens. The romance at the heart of it is sweet; Romeo and Juliet's attraction depicted as instant love. There's no swearing but some poison-drinking and swordplay, some of which -- no spoiler here -- ends up in death.
What's the story?
It's the Bard's romantic tragedy for the ages, featuring a swoony, moody, beautiful Romeo (Douglas Booth) who's swept off his feet at first glance by the sweet and gently Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld). But in fair Verona, the Montagues, of which Romeo is a member, and the Capulets, whose jewel is the patriarch's daughter, Juliet, are mortal enemies. The eager Paris wants to marry Juliet, whose hot-headed cousin Tybalt (Ed Westwick), hates Romeo and his cohorts, the fair-minded Benvolio (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and the dashing Mercutio (Christian Cooke). Romeo's confidant, Friar Laurence (Paul Giamatti), thinks there might be a path for happiness for the young couple, with the help of Juliet's nurse (Lesley Manville). But the course of true love never did run smooth.
Is it any good?
ROMEO AND JULIET's titular hero is made as appealing here as can be: He's an artist (a broody one, too), a heartfelt romantic and impetuous, driven to grand gestures and wearing shirts barely cosseted. This Romeo is the stuff of teen dreams. Booth fares fairly well with the Bard's challenging lines, reciting them with real-life cadence. It's too bad that his counterpart, Steinfeld, doesn't. She doesn't so much say her lines as mutter them, gobbling up the beautiful poetry. She doesn't shortchange the material when it comes to acting, however. Steinfeld plays it straight and it suits the film well. Booth and Steinfeld may not share a white-hot chemistry, but they are starry-eyed, indeed.
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes wrote this remake, and it's prone to soap opera-ish flourishes. (Director Carlo Carlei doesn't do it any favors, either.) The music is overdone, as are the lingering shots of Booth's handsome face. Fellowes' and his cinematographer's take on Juliet is quite obvious, too; they encase her in a gauzy, dreamy light -- cheap shots that curb the movie's potential. And Westwick's Tybalt seems to relish his role too much. This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet won't break new ground like Baz Lurhmann's did. It isn't lush like Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version, either. But it's pretty and earnest in wonderful ways, and that's nothing to scoff at.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what made Romeo and Juliet immune to the hatred sown by their feuding families. How would this kind of family feud play out today?
Was Romeo and Juliet's love really true love? Or a romanticized, idealized version of love? What is the film's take on it?