Saturday, February 22, 2014

Movie Review: Romeo and Juliet (2013)


Title: Romeo and Juliet
Author: Shakespeare (more or less)
Genre: romance, drama
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG-13 (for some violence and thematic elements)
Age Group: 18+

Summary: We all know the story--or so we think. Shakespeare gives it to us in the first lines of the play. Romeo and Juliet are from warring families and they fall in love. Their love, and marriage, is ultimately torn apart by the families' arguments. When Romeo believes his wife to be dead, he commits suicide. Juliet wakes from her sleep, sees her dear husband dead, and kills herself as well. A tragedy, really. A Shakespearean tragedy.

Word of Warning
  • Shakespeare's language is always obscene to some extent. This particular play is loaded with hidden little comments that might make the audience squirm for sheer number of them--if they were all understood. This particular version of his play keeps much of the original language. Since it is not possible to name all the suggestions, just know that they are there and not easily noticed.
  • Juliet is not even 14 (and she looks young as well). Romeo looks to be about 16, but it is unclear as to how old he actually is.
  • Death. Three men are killed during sword fights, Romeo drinks a poison, Juliet drinks a drug which makes her appear dead, Juliet thrusts a dagger into her stomach (there is no gore or drama here). Before actually taking their own lives, Romeo and Juliet both threaten to do so with a dagger (not in the presence of each other) once.
  • Various uses of God's name, Jesus's name, and saints.
  • The first meeting of the lovers involves numerous references to lips (often compared with pilgrims), saints (not always respectful), and Romeo states that his kissing Juliet was a sin, then begs her to allow him to repeat his sin again.
  • Countless passionate kisses between Romeo and Juliet. Romeo also kisses Juliet a few times after he believes she is dead, and she kisses him after she knows he is dead.
  • Romeo and Juliet get their wedding night despite the fact that Romeo is in danger of being killed. They kiss, Romeo's shirt is removed, Juliet is in her underdress, and they end up on her bed, kissing. The last shot we see is of Romeo bent over her, kissing her, and then the shot in the morning has her in his arms, both still dressed the same as they were when the camera cut to another scene. Obviously there are implications of sex, but nothing is shown, and they are married. The scene becomes a bit disturbing when we take into account their ages, and the fact that Juliet looks so young.
  • Children marry without their parents' permission, and behind their backs because they know they can't get that permission. A priest goes along with this.
  • Juliet's father shouts at her, threatens to disown her, and tells her she must get married. He is unaware that she is already married to Romeo. Juliet's nurse advises that the girl marry Paris as her father desires as Romeo has been banished. We get the idea that Juliet is refusing not because she is already married, but because she loves another.
  • Romeo caresses Juliet's face on more than one occasion (before they are married).
  • Romeo's friends are not exactly respectable people (well, money-wise they are). They joke about various things, and much of Shakespeare's hidden sexual comments come into play between them. At one point, a young man refers to his friends as "lusty gentlemen."
  • Juliet's mother makes a comment that implies her husband had a brief affair. He responds by hugging her from behind and asking if she'll still hold that against him. He kisses her, and it's pretty clear he's suggesting something for later that night.
  • At the end of their famous balcony meeting, as Juliet is about to leave, and after they have kissed passionately several times, Romeo asks if she will leave him so unsatisfied. When she asks what he means, he quickly responds that he wants proof of her love and that they should vow it to each other. As a viewer who was paying particular attention to the language, it sounded like his request for vows was a sort of quick cover up, more spur of the moment than actually what he was originally suggesting.
  • Romeo is clearly interested in a physical relationship with Juliet and one might even venture to say that all his sweet words of love are to that end. Juliet is relatively innocent in this respect, but she does give in pretty quickly and apparently believes his love for her.
  • Many other smaller things. Listed above are simply the biggest problems. And, once again, I was unable to keep track of all the kisses or the disguised sexual language.
My Thoughts
I have a confession to make: I hadn't read Romeo and Juliet until now, my sophomore year of college. I mean, sure, I'd glanced at it before, but never really studied what was actually being said. Having read the first two acts, I was a bit shocked as to how far Shakespeare went with his language and sexual suggestions. In all honesty, it was disgusting.

I was lucky to come across such a clean version of the play (clean there is obviously a relative term here). By sticking to most of the original dialogue in the play, and using period costumes, the movie itself was really impressive and I was glad they didn't try to make it modern (because the beauty of the story is that it's timeless. it doesn't need to be modernized). The movie does deserve credit for that, and also for its portrayal of the story. Somehow, we are able to internally laugh at Romeo and Juliet, and yet not. We feel sorry that Juliet has fallen for Romeo's sweet words of love, and that Romeo is so caught up in his desires that he sees nothing else. We also find this overdone and almost comical. And yet, the acting was too well done for it to be seen as a comedy. We have Midsummer Night's Dream for that (same plot, just not a tragedy). Yes, it felt like a tragedy. A well done tragedy.

While I would not advise reading Romeo and Juliet in high school, or watching the movie, if one must watch a rendition of it, this version was incredibly well done. That's why I rated it so highly. Because it took on the challenging task of recreating this famous Shakespearean tragedy, and it completed it in a satisfactory, even impressive, way.

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