Romeo + Juliet

Movie review by S. Jordan Mattos, Common Sense Media
Romeo + Juliet Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 16+

Optically brilliant, violent update of classic.

PG-13 1996 120 minutes

Parents say

age 13+

Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 13+

Based on 95 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 14+

Spot On

Most of the reviews for this film leave me wondering how many people actually read the original play. Don't watch this film and complain about the violence and sexuality: the original play is rife with both. The opening scene is a street brawl, two characters are later killed, and two more commit suicide. While exploring the text in class I tell my students to assume that everything that comes out of Mercutio's mouth is reminiscent of 50 Shades of Grey. He's absolutely filthy, and both Romeo and Benvolio get in on it whenever they're together and Romeo's not moping about. The only reason Romeo is so depressed at the beginning of the play is because he can't get any from Rosaline, a girl he's been hounding but who has been unwilling to respond. This is a book about reckless and thoughtless teens with too much time on their hands and too much money in their blood. This film shows that, so expect the worst kind of behaviour. The film is an accurate depiction of two melodramatic kids who love the idea of love rather than truly loving each other (as is often stated by Friar Laurence). Shakespeare mocks young love as being nothing more than blind lust and causing nothing but trouble. It's not romantic; it's volatile, and there is no message of peace at the root of the film as Common Sense Media states in their review. There is only one character who doesn't just talk about peace but actively works toward it, and that's the Friar who lies and manipulates to achieve his goal. The parts other reviewers complain about are all in the original play. If you don't like this film because it's too violent and hyper-sexualized, complain about the book, not the film. Baz Lurhmann nails it without getting too graphic or too sexual. It's intense, but so is the book; the film just cuts out the boring parts and moves along faster. Want to better understand what was really going on in the play? This film is the one to watch.
5 people found this helpful.
age 14+

A phenomenal adaptation of Shakespeare's play.

As a high school teacher, I found that this was one of the more comprehensive adaptations out there. The 60's version, although true to the time period, boasts a lot of nudity and dated imagery that does not fare too well in a contemporary classroom setting. If 9th graders are expected to read "Romeo and Juliet" as a part of the curriculum, then it is only fitting that its movie adaptations should not alienate high school students. Luhrmann's version does not. There is no blatant nudity; the violence is present, but it is handled in a very campy and hyperbolized fashion, so that students are able to separate fact from fiction. I have seen the 3 commercial adaptations. This one holds true to the Shakespeare canon without dumbing down the language. Just be prepared to unpack the visual juxtaposition with your students. It can get bizarre when characters refer to automatic weapons as swords and daggers.
2 people found this helpful.

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