Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet Blu-ray review
|REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS|
A tale of young love that perhaps needed more mature talent to shine...
When I was sixteen, my high school did A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a few months later, a new version of Romeo and Juliet hit the theatres, so a bunch of us just had to see it. It was one of the first moments in my life when I realized that I’m a demographic, and that the movie I was watching was a product made just for me. As the incredible wave of crassness washed over me, implanting its insidious (if now archaic) message of “Buy my soundtrack” in my fragile teenage mind, I realized that Hollywood is an evil money factory, whose sole intent is the cyclical collection of funds and any entertainment or personal growth I may receive from their product is completely coincidental.
At least, that’s what I would like to have thought.
I didn’t entirely enjoy it, but I lacked the vocabulary, experience or knowledge to separate and appreciate what truly was good from what didn’t work at all. I left the theatre not wanting to disagree with the half-dozen or so drama kids around me going into apoplexy over its supposed awesomeness, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of weirdness that I was supposed to like that movie. I did not yet know that there was such a thing as constructing a movie for someone my age and inclination to like, snake charming us into buying its merch at Sam Goody or Spencer’s or wherever in the fuck American teenagers bought frivolous garbage in the nineties.
I began to learn within a few months about demographics and marketing, and the science of Hoovering teenagers’ disposable income; years later, my memory of the film’s admittedly impressive visual style led me to buy the special edition DVD. As I watched the film as an adult, I was able to understand what I was seeing on what I now felt was an appropriate level, rather than being hypnotized by the colors and almost strobe-like editing (and my unshakable sixteen-year-old’s crush on Claire Danes).
"There’s a reason why adults usually play these parts and no better endorsement of that has ever been made than by this movie. All the sexy cinematography in the world falls flat if it’s shooting people who look foolish saying the words"
The movie is exceptionally well made, from the ground up. Every technical aspect (except the ramping of film speeds, I hate that) is sound and used to good effect. The supporting cast is exceptional, including Pete Postlethwaite, Diane Venora, Miriam Margolyes, Paul Sorvino and Harold Perrineau truly inhabiting their characters in a way that is necessary to translate the Shakespearean verse. Of particular note is Perrineau as Mercutio, who grabs his scenes and runs away with them, presumably to a better movie.
And there’s the rub, good friends: for all the film does well, its focus is poor. The leads couldn’t have been better cast... if your sole metric is the capability of a film to recoup its investment. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes are woefully out of their element, merely mouthing the words and draining their screen time, both shared and with others. The vortex of talent these two represent almost ruins an extremely interesting postmodern take on a story most people could recite in their sleep. When they show up on screen, this otherwise brilliant film falls to the doomed level of a high school production - the earnestness is stifling and their combined lack of the experience needed to say dialogue which is near-incomprehensible when not coming from the mouth of actors at least twice their age is shocking. There’s a reason why adults usually play these parts and no better endorsement of that has ever been made than by this movie. All the sexy cinematography in the world falls flat if it’s shooting people who look foolish saying the words.
As for the disc itself, aside from the excellent quality of the picture and sound, almost everything about it screams “second thought,” as though they were preparing the Moulin Rouge Blu-ray and someone at Fox demanded this as an attendant disc. You’ll notice, though, that the first film in the “trilogy,” Strictly Ballroom, wasn’t part of the festivities. The majority of the extras here were recycled from the 2002 DVD, including the commentary track, but the design section is conspicuously missing. Much like on the Moulin Rouge BR, the thing that really interests me was left off. Despite holding the same price point, there are considerably fewer extras here than on the other. The disc’s saving grace, elevating the overall score, is the picture-in-picture feature over the commentary; like on Moulin Rouge, it’s informative and thorough, but it doesn’t make up for the rest, which also has the same bordering issue as the extras for its companion film.
Bold denotes material of particular interest.
* - recycled from the DVD
1) Shaking Up Shakespeare PIP mode with commentary by director Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, cinematographer Donald McAlpine and co-writer Craig Pierce.
2)* above audio track without PIP elements
3) From the Bazmark Vault - A small collection of fresh extras not found on the DVD: First Kiss / Beach Scene / Uncut Rehearsal / Outside the Church
4) Romeo + Juliet: The Music - Really the only new interesting extras, a great deal of time is spent examining the process of applying music to the film: Documentary / “Everybody’s Fine” - The Journey of the Song / The London Music Mix / Temp Music - The Journey of the Song
5) Director’s Gallery* - Impact / Why Shakespeare? / Pitching Shakespeare / Directing the Gas Station / Directing the Pool Scene / Tybalt’s Execution
6) Director of Photography Gallery* - A Hole in the Wall / The Fish Tank Scene / Filming the Lift Scene / One Light / Filming the Church
7) Interview Gallery* - Leonardo DiCaprio / Claire Danes / John Leguizamo / Production Designer Catherine Martin / Co-writer Craig Pierce / Editor Jill Bilcock / Choreographer John O’Connell / Costume Designer Kym Barrett
8) Marketing - International Theatrical Trailer (wow, how nineties is this trailer?)
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