MRR Review: "Romeo and Juliet"

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When the star-crossed lovers of two enemy families meet, forbidden love ensues.
2.5

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MRR Review: "Romeo and Juliet"

Rating: PG-13 (some violence and thematic elements)
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: October 11, 2013
Directed by: Carlo Carlei
Genre: Drama, Romance

The tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet has been a classic for hundreds of years, and there have been numerous plays, novels, and movies based on the original story. Even though many adaptations have been made, all of them rely on the same foundation. Romeo and Juliet are always two young lovers who, in spite of the whole world being against them, fight to stay together. In some adaptations, Romeo and Juliet are from feuding families who are reconciled after the deaths of the two young lovers. In other adaptations, Romeo and Juliet simply have different cultural or financial backgrounds. In this 2013 British film adaptation, the tale of the two star-crossed lovers begins in Renaissance Verona just like the popular 1968 adaptation by Franco Zeffirelli. Other recent adaptations have retold the story in modern times, but 2013's "Romeo and Juliet" returns to its original roots.

The role of Juliet is played by Hailee Steinfeld, a promising young American actress who is just a teenager herself, unlike many of the actors who have portrayed Juliet. Hailee Steinfeld is best known for her role as Mattie Ross in 2010's blockbuster western "True Grit," which earned her a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress as well as the coveted BAFTA Award for the title of Best Actress in a Leading Role. Even though Hailee Steinfeld was much younger than planned, her energy and natural talent won her the role of Juliet and resulted in a partial rewriting of several scenes that were inappropriate for someone her age.

Hailee Steinfeld stars alongside English actor Douglas Booth, who portrays Romeo in this 2013 adaptation. Unlike Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth has no experience with major films, but he is known across the globe for his portrayal of Boy George in "Worried About the Boy," a 2010 television drama that aired on the BBC Two network. Of course, Douglas Booth does bring some of his experience from Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" to the table as he takes on the role of Romeo. Thanks to his previous role as Pip in the popular BBC One adaptation of one of Charles Dickens' greatest works, Douglas Booth already knows how to act like a character straight from the history books, and his portrayal of Romeo is surprisingly realistic and gritty for an actor with little prior experience.

Of course, there are plenty of familiar faces in this British adaptation. Damian Lewis, best known for his starring role in the Showtime thriller series "Homeland," portrays Lord Capulet, Juliet's powerful father and the Capulet family patriarch. In 2013's "Romeo and Juliet," Lord Capulet is a serious and somewhat cold man who truly believes he knows what's best for his rebellious daughter. In spite of his good intentions, however, Lord Capulet has a fearsome temper that is rivaled only by Lady Capulet's manipulative and sharp tongue. Natascha McElhone, who is known for her recurring role in the television series "Californication," portrays the unwavering Lady who is looking out for her entire family as opposed to caring for the needs of her daughter. Both parents drive Juliet to rage and rebellion by attempting to force her into a marriage to Count Paris.

In 2013's "Romeo and Juliet," Romeo's family is slightly less of a disaster than Juliet's. Tomas Arana, who won over audiences with his award-winning starring role in Ridley Scott's "Gladiator," portrays Romeo's adoring yet somewhat clueless father, Lord Montague. Lord Montague loves his son desperately but has no idea how to reach him and advise him, which does no favors for their distant relationship. Lady Montague, played by Laura Morante, is also truly looking out for the needs of her son while trying to keep his temperamental father out of trouble. Even though Laura Morante is relatively unknown outside of her work as the leading lady in small Italian films, she is a solid actor who maintains a level of sophistication rarely seen in films from this century.

All in all, 2013's "Romeo and Juliet" is an interesting adaptation that attempts to appeal to modern audiences without stepping outside the original story's Renaissance time line. While this is certainly a difficult feat, director Carlo Carlei gave it his all and worked hard to craft a relevant story that wouldn't lose its historical atmosphere. Thanks to his efforts to draw important elements, such as costumes and set design, from Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 adaptation, Carlo Carlei has created a film that's sure to appeal to anyone who enjoys the classical versions of this famous tragic love story.

Stars: 2.5 of 5 stars