Monday, October 14, 2013

Romeo and Juliet (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Romeo and Juliet

While it is undeniable that the latest adaptation of 'Romeo and Juliet' has its share of shmaltz, it is sure to provide some breezy popcorn fun for Tweens. Despite its curious, dated "Twilight" shades and its After-School  Special score, it does possess a sincere intention that holds some interest, if short on the lasting emotional surprise that Shakespearean audiences can usually divine.

Carlo Carlei, whose domain is television, ably directs this sumptuously visual if pedestrian outing of the drama.

This is not the original Bard's play as written. Rather, it is adapted by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes and it feels Shakespeare-ish, a bit like the difference between a serious wine and a spritzer as the dialogue moves from plain speech to Shakespeare with some damnable unpredictability. This is sure to infuriate many as it has and no doubt will, yet it is entertaining in spite of its flaws and perhaps, just maybe, because of them.

Visually, the film is beautifully produced. The costumes alone are veritable pomegranates in fabric. Second, it is actually filmed in Verona. The landscapes are nothing short of a terrestrial dessert, all chiffon and clay-colored currants throughout, with rapiers and ribbons. Here are grey castles and musty monasteries with real sense and palpable texture. The setting speaks of Juliet and nightshade Romeo and that goes a long way in suspending the bridge of disbelief.

Yet all is not well in Verona in regard to casting. Hailee Steinfeld seems a bit too jejune as Juliet while Douglas Booth remains  too mature and frozen. At times, Booth seems to be talking to a frosted mirror instead of Steinfeld. Granted teens can be self-involved, but this wasn't as transfixing as it could have been.

That said, the two go thru the fascade well with an interesting mania for poison and swords which borders on the fetishistic (as Shakespeare duly calls for) and this is well handled.

The casting of Paul Giamatti, regrettably, is laughable as the friar. He is a Robert Crumb cartoon in Friar's garb: all goggly-eyed, tormented, simpering and sweaty. He seemed all too much Paul Giamatti.

And although Damian Lewis does quite well as Juliet's father, his role is so unsympathetic, repulsive and weasel-like, it is hard to feel remorse for his Capulet curse. And is not that the whole hinged thing?

Despite the detached, cyber-seeming tone of the affair with the actors more like avatars, than night-vined creatures of passion and blood, (this is a veneer of Franco Zeffirelli rather than a vision) "Romeo and Juliet" is finally an amusing if ephemeral primer even as it stoops to turn The Bard into babysitter.

Write Ian at

No comments: