Actors: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth
Format: AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (DTS 5.1)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Run Time: 119 minutes
Anyone over the age of twenty-five is likely to be skeptical at the necessity of yet another adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, while it simultaneously seems doubtful that anyone younger will enjoy the somewhat straightforward approach to the widely recognizable tale. Everything about this latest adaptation is underwhelming, almost as if the filmmakers had hoped the entire production could lean on the popularity of Shakespeare’s most manipulative melodrama and a few pretty young faces.
The most difficult choice in critiquing this film is deciding which element to first attack. Perhaps it would be best to begin with the admirable qualities, of which there are so few. Though rather uninspired, the visual style of director Carlo Carlei’s film has a polished appearance that surpasses past adaptations permitting the narrative its proper setting and time. There are also a few inspired performances from the older actors in the cast. Damian Lewis tears at the words like a ravenous beast, though his overzealousness tends to overshadow every other actor in the scene with him. It is Paul Giamatti who gives a perfectly nuanced performance, subtler and more impressive than any other element of the film, though this left me wishing for a film about Friar Lawrence rather than two forgettable teenagers.
This is the single largest glaring problem of Romeo & Juliet; Romeo and Juliet. Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld aren’t terrible as much as they are miscast. They both have enough experience in front of the camera to know how to pose and make pretty wide-eyed, pouting-lipped expressions, but neither have any passion in their performances. At times it seems that they don’t even have an adequate grasp of the words they are speaking.
Shakespeare may not have written a play as popular or as lasting as “Romeo & Juliet,” but it was far from his best. Though there is great dialogue, I never have enjoyed the characters or the manipulative storyline. Somehow Julian Fellowes has managed to make the situation even worse with his choices in adapting the text. Despite being set in
during the accurate time period, Fellowes has managed to lose the point of the
narrative far more than those who have altered or updated the date and setting.
The passion is gone from the story, with the help of cast and screenplay,
despite still remaining nearly two-hours long. Verona
The Blu-ray release of Romeo & Juliet also contains a digital copy of the film. The special features on the Blu-ray include four superficial featurettes that seem only directed at thirteen-year-old girls. There is a featurette about the hair and make-up. Enough said.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5/10
Historical Significance: 1/10
Disc Features: 3/10