Lookin' Under The Lid #3: Romeo and Juliet

In 1996, Director Baz Luhrmann put a post-modern twist on one of the most romantic love stories told with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The characters traded in their rags for Versace, their daggers for pistols and castles for elaborate mansions in this Shakespeare remake. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Romeo, the Montague trying to capture the heart of Juliet Capulet, played by Claire Danes. However, the Montagues and Capulets, the two richest families in Verona, have a rivalry and hatred towards one another. The clans will stop at nothing to dismantle the other, just as Romeo and Juliet will stop at nothing to be together.

There are three scenes I would like to touch up on, starting from … well … the start, I suppose.

Thumb Biters at the Gas Station
A firefight ensues, started by two smartass Montague servants literally “biting their thumbs” towards members of the Capulet squad at a Gas Station. I like the scene because using guns at a Gas Station represents destruction and the film symbolizes the tearing and destruction of two families. However, because the environment is in post-modern Verona, they should have used middle fingers instead of thumb-biting. I know it was looked at as an insult back a few centuries ago. Nowadays, if somebody were “biting their thumb,” people would think the person is a sketch ball or may contain an oral fixation. I’m sure there are a few freaks in Verona.

Killing Mercutio and Tybalt
So Tybalt is all fired up and wanting to rip somebody’s head off so he decides to pick a fight with Romeo. Although Romeo declined to dance, Tybalt roughed him up, causing a battle. Somehow during the break-up of the brawl, Tybalt “accidentally” killed Mercutio. Romeo (or Leonardo DiCaprio if you will) walked towards Mercutio like the baby he is, crying like he lost his new shirt. Mercutio tried shaking off the fatal injury and when he realizes he is dying, he becomes this angry man and yelled, “A plague … a plague on both your houses.” Talk about being moody. After DiCaprio is done crying like the little baby he is, rain began falling from the sky. A huge thunder and lightening storm brews. Oh no! He’s mad! Don’t piss off DiCaprio.

So what happens next? The roles reverse: DiCaprio becomes a psycho and Tybalt becomes a pussy. Tybalt gets the crap kicked out of him and got shot more than 50 Cent. And what happens after these murder sprees? A banishment from Verona. That’s it. I know this play was written centuries ago, but come on. If you are going to update a play, just don’t update the setting. Don’t do it half-ass. Heck, if killing somebody only got you removed from a certain town, then the death toll would be a lot higher today. I could see it now; “Hey man, I’m moving to Canada … I just killed some bitch for looking at me the wrong way.”

So after the banishment, Juliet and Friar Laurence wrote a letter to Romeo, which explained the plan. He was to rescue Juliet at the Crypt, where she “faked” her death. Only problem is Romeo heared from his servant that she was alread dead. Romeo returned to town to say his last farewell and never received the letter.

Committing Suicide at the Crypt
Juliet (or Claire Danes) is in her final resting place, surrounded by millions of magnificent candles in a room bigger than the size of any school dormitory. The secret is she really isn’t dead; Friar Laurence gave her a pill, which kept her asleep for several days, but of course DiCaprio (or Romeo) doesn’t know this. So, he snuck into this fabulous Crypt, saw the love of his life motionless and knew for himself she is dead. After DiCaprio does what he does best (cries like he skinned his knee), he drank a potion and as he died, he saw Danes waking up. So now, he’s a confused dead person. When she realized he didn’t know, she screams “Oh Happy Dagger” and takes her life too. I thoroughly loved the setting as it was both eerie and beautiful at the same time. Both DiCaprio and Danes pulled it off nicely and it was the best scene, mainly because it wasn’t far-stretched from what really happened. It really catches the mood of regret and despair.

In regards to the lighting, it seemed somewhat like natural daylight and night time, which was pretty cool. When a character was sad, then it would rain and background music would slow down. When it got intense, the camera angles focused on the mug and music sped up.

Although the film takes place in the present-day environment, the language was the same as the book. Don’t get me wrong; I like the lingo in the book, but if you are going to do a remake, then relate the whole thing to today. That is why this movie isn’t a remake: it’s just an update of imagery.

Oh yea. If DiCaprio wasn’t such a big sissy, this movie probably would have been better. You know Shakespeare is going to be kicking Luhrmann ass in heaven.

The Decision: Throw it in the Trash.

(Would you ‘Keep it in the stash’ or ‘Throw it in the trash’? Let us know.)

One reply on “Lookin' Under The Lid #3: Romeo and Juliet”

I’d keep it in the Stash. It’s a well-done rethinking of something that a lot of people think is hopelessly outdated.

Plus: Harold Perrineau OWNS as Mercutio.

Comments are closed.