Romeo and Juliet (2013) Blu-ray Review
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is often cited as the most-filmed play of all time. Directors from George Cukor and Franco Zeffirelli to Baz Luhrmann and Lloyd Kaufman have adapted it to their own styles. Countries from Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, and countless in between have brought the source to the screen. It has been titled everything from the classic name and punny takes (GNOMEO AND JULIET) to WEST SIDE STORY and CHICKEN RICE WAR.
And now here is the latest adaptation, titled, simply, ROMEO AND JULIET. Regardless of whether you made it to high school or not, you know the story: two teenagers from rival families, the Montagues and the Capulets, meet, fall in love and cause as much trouble as possible. It doesn’t end well for friends, family or themselves. It’s rightly categorized as a tragedy and a demonstration of just how destructive horny teens can be.
ROMEO AND JULIET goes about all of the motions you’d expect: Romeo (Douglas Booth, who played Pip in BBC’s 2011 miniseries of GREAT EXPECTATIONS) and Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld, TRUE GRIT) do their teen romance thing, while those around them—namely Romeo’s friend Mercutio (Christian Cooke, Starz’s MAGIC CITY), Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Ed Westwick, who starred on The CW’s GOSSIP GIRL), Lady Montague (Laura Morante, THE YOUNGEST SON), and, of course, themselves—fall victim to the forbidden love. Also in the mix are Lord Capulet (Damian Lewis, Showtime’s HOMELAND), Romeo’s cousin Benvolio (Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Hillcoat’s THE ROAD) and Friar Lawrence (Paul Giamatti, who recited Shakespeare’s words in a 2013 stage production of Hamlet).
A notable difference between this adaptation and so many of the others is that the screenplay (by Julian Fellowes, who won an Academy Award for writing 2001’s GOSFORD PARK) ditches the traditional Shakespearian dialogue. Fellowes doesn’t try to punch it up for modern audiences by having Juliet declare “YOLO!” before swallowing poison, but he does opt for more comprehendible and accessible dialogue. This has caused gripes, but the decision isn’t close to being the bastardization that purists will lead others to believe.
This is the first theatrically released film by Carlo Carlei in nearly 20 years (his most recent was 1995’s FLUKE, with Matthew Modine voicing a dog). Carlei approaches the material in a fairly standard way and only seems to be interested in bringing a pulse to the story during the opening joust and the swordfights.
Still, this version has a certain amount of elegance to it courtesy of the stellar production values: a beautiful score by Abel Korzeniowski (A SINGLE MAN), gorgeous costumes by Carlo Poggioli (COLD MOUNTAIN) and faithful production decoration by Tonino Zera (THE FIRST BEAUTIFUL THING), all of which elevate the film.
While those achievements certainly make Carlei’s ROMEO AND JULIET one of the better-looking and -sounding takes, when the last tear is shed and the last body dropped, we’re left wondering, What’s the point? The story has already been tackled by everyone from Academy Award winners to residents of Tromaville and, while there are some minor changes here, it’s nothing more than just another adaptation that will only be mentioned when the next one comes along.
ROMEO AND JULIET BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. ROMEO AND JULIET looks gorgeous in this high-definition transfer, which makes the wonderful cinematography, production design and costumes even more stunning.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The dialogue is clear throughout, but viewers will be most impressed by the more action-oriented sequences such as the opening joust and the swordplay.
Cast and Crew (3:15): Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Damian Lewis, and more briefly touch on this adaptation.
The Filmmaker’s Vision (3:51): Director Carlo Carlei, screenwriter Julian Fellowes and more discuss the purpose of making another version of the story.
Creating the Look (3:39) focuses on the production design and costumes.
Hair and Make-Up (2:16) spotlights the work of hair designer Francesco Pegoretti and makeup artist Laura Borzelli.