As far as updates of William Shakespeare's work this Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom) film is one of the better ones. With a modern setting (Venice Beach) and an upbeat music score, Luhrmann has remembered what is strongest about Shakespeare is his words and stories. Though the story has been dramatically shortened it has not been massacred. It is still coherent and all the essential parts are still there. In order to keep up with his hectic vision, Luhrmann has made the play more digestable to today's youth by keeping it at the 2-hour mark. This is definitely a young person's Romeo and Juliet.
The Shakespearean language and the essence of the tale have not been touched, but have still been adapted to be more palatable to today's youth. There is everything there to interest them sex, betrayal, violence, guns, and death. Everything in the film happens at breakneck speed, is loud, full of energy, and colourful. It surely is a treat for the ears and eyes. What more could a young person today want from Shakespeare? Some of the hottest younger actors (Di Caprio and Danes) star in the film. Everything has been geared to the teenage audience and if this is how we have to get them to watch Shakespeare then so be it.
What is interesting about a Shakespeare story are the universal themes he uses. Everyone can relate to the heartache, messed up families, love, and sense of betrayal. Director Luhrmann is a master at presenting the message in such a musical and frenetic way that you can't help be kept interested. It is sexy and in-your-face but not in an obnoxious way. He walks that tightrope successfully. The world of Romeo and Juliet is crazy, violent and fast paced but infinitely interesting.
Shakespeare's tale of young love in defiance of everyone is the theme of Romeo and Juliet. The Montagues and the Capulets are two families from the Venice Beach area who definitely do not see eye to eye. In fact where these two families are concerned it is often an eye for an eye. It is war! Romeo (Leonardo Di Caprio – The Departed, Gangs of New York) is a Montague and has just had his heart broken. He is miserable until he and his friends, including Mercutio (Harold Perrineau – from television's Lost), sneak into a Capulet party. It is the beginning of the end for many when Romeo lays eyes on Juliet (Claire Danes – The Family Stone, Shopgirl) – a Capulet. As many before them, it is love at first sight. Unfortunately for the young lovers their families would kill the other if they found them together so they have to hide it from everyone. Predictably, the secret is not easily kept. Juliet's cousin, Tybalt (John Leguizamo – Ice Age, Collateral Damage), finds out and there is a fight in which Mercutio is killed. Let the games begin! The already feuding families are now at a boil. Romeo and Juliet come up with a plan to get married secretly by Father Laurence (Pete Postlethwaite – Amistad, The Shipping News). It seems simple enough, but tragedy ensues and mistakes are made. The road to love is truly a bumpy one for young Romeo and Juliet.
-Romeo + Juliet – The Music
-The London Music Mix
-The Journey of the Song: Young Hearts Run Free, Everybody's Free and Temp Music