Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V18
The Capulets and the Montagues, the wealthiest families in Verona, are at war. Teenager Romeo, a Montague (Douglas Booth) spots Capulet teenager Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld), at a Capulet masquerade ball. Their eyes lock; it’s love at first sight—or destiny, as William Shakespeare’s universally acclaimed romance portrays it, because even after the party masks are peeled off, they’re still madly in love. In love enough to want to marry, which Friar Laurence (Paul Giamatti) does, in secret. The problem is Juliet’s father, Lord Capulet (Damian Lewis), unaware that his daughter is already legally married, demands that Juliet marry Count Paris, a nobleman. Enmeshed in the Capulet-Montague rivalry, Juliet is a virtual prisoner of her father’s desire for the convenient marriage; Romeo on the other hand happens to kill a Capulet, resulting in his being exiled outside of Verona.
Something doesn’t quite click that well when a Shakespearean classic goes on film. Carlo Carlei’s Romeo & Juliet will be compared with other film versions, and side by side with Zefirelli’s it might pale somewhat in many areas. The acting of the two leads leaves much to be desired; it’s not clear whether it’s their being green horns or their lack of chemistry that leaves the audience unmoved. Steinfeld’s Juliet is enthusiastic but average; Booth’s Romeo seems too intent on perfecting his lines that he sometimes comes on stiff and bereft of emotion. It’s Giamatti’s solid portrayal that carries the show, his fire making up for the lack of passion in the newbies’ performance. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the viewer suspects Carlei has intended his opus to be Friar Laurence’s story, not Romeo and Juliet’s; he gets the soulful shots, and that hangdog look in his eyes effortlessly draws the audience’s sympathy to his favor. The other actors The lush production sets, costumes and cinematography, however, raise the overall technical score.