I’m a Shakespeare fan, and I have been since I was 12 or 13. I have seen 2.5 adaptations of Romeo and Juliet (the half counts for the five or ten minutes I spent watching the one with Leslie Howard–ouch), and Luhrmann’s was my favorite. While the 1968 version was historically faithful to costuming and all that, I found the fight scenes between Tybalt and Mercutio Tybalt and Romeo far too homoerotic for how I felt the scenes were actually written.
I was on the fence as to whether I should invest my time in seeing the most recent remake, since it looked kind of stupid. But upon reading that Damian Lewis and Tom Wisdom were in it (as well as Stellan Skarsgard), I decided to give it a whirl. I had to find the right time to watch it, since I have to share Netflix with three people.
I finally got my chance this morning, and five minutes in, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy. They botched the Elizabethan English, almost entirely removing it from the film. Ed Westwick, whom I loved in the limited episodes I watched of Gossip Girl, wasn’t all that great as Tybalt. For me, the biggest issue I had was the English. I feel that if you’re going to make a film based on a well-known Shakespeare work that takes place in the Middle Ages, keep the language. To have it peppered throughout the film was utterly useless, especially when crucial words are changed to appeal to the modern audience. All ‘thee,’ ‘thou,’ ‘thine,’ and ‘thy’ were replaced with their modern variations.
For example: “Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike” (Act II, Scene II), becomes: “Neither, fair saint, if either you dislike.”
I almost picked up my laptop and threw it across the room. If you feel compelled to change the language in order to get teenagers or younger people to understand, then don’t make this film/screenplay. Some things should not be altered, because what ends up happening is you piss everyone off. A vast amount of the reviews on IMDb are scathing because of the changing of the language. Some commented on the lack of chemistry between Romeo and Juliet, which there was definitely some discord between them. Everything else, was great. Costumes, settings, and lighting. I felt the casting of Lady Capulet was great. Although the actress is in her 40s, she looks like she could be young enough to be Juliet’s mom (who I am guessing should be about 25/26-years-old).
Obviously, not everyone is going to share this opinion. But I thought I would offer up my two cents.