ROMEO + JULIET (1996)

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Christopher

I’m glad we finally got to watch this movie because I know how much Elizabeth loves it. I have to say it’s not quite for me but I did end up liking it pretty okay! It’s crazy how young some of the actors are in it.

I think all the stuff I generally had a problem with is the director. He’s just kind of awful in some of his decisions. But this movie is a million times better than that shit cloud Moulin Rouge.

The best character to me is Mercutio. When he died it was easily the saddest part of the movie to me. It was also weird that it was Michael from Lost.

But the best part of the film was easily Paul Rudd. He plays Juliet’s soon-to-be-man, Paris. There is a scene in the movie where he turns around, while clapping his hands, smiling at Juliet that is one of the funniest things I have ever seen!

I’ve been wanting to watch this since high school so I’m really glad I finally saw it but I wish I had seen it in high school because I think I would have liked it a bit more.

ALL 13 YEAR OLD GIRLS GO SEE THIS!!

Elizabeth

God, what is there to say about Romeo + Juliet? It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. I’ve seen it so many times . . . honestly I would put it up around 75 times. I was completely obsessed with the play before the movie, and then hardcore obsessed with the movie. I listened to the soundtrack constantly and I give it credit for turning me onto my all-time favorite band, Radiohead. It took my all-time favorite actress at the time, Claire Danes (thanks to My So-Called Life), and paired her with my all-time favorite actor at the time (and probably still, let’s be honest), Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s just really quite incredible.

I’ve read Romeo and Juliet more than any other work (except for kids’ books), hands down, no question. I haven’t read it in years, but I still pretty much know the story backwards and forwards. And as a story everyone knows so well, it amazes me how beautiful and relevant it still is. So Romeo + Juliet is set in modern times, but is still in its own universe, where the characters all speak in Middle English, they live in a surreal beach city, and everyone carries at least one gun. Though modern, it’s still a world where telegrams and mailed messages are used over phone calls, two teenagers meet, fall in love, and get married within 24 hours, and banishment is a viable punishment that can be bestowed without trial. It’s never made clear if this is the United States, though the fact that it was filmed in Mexico is pretty clear, and that’s good. Because it’s not in the United States, it’s in Verona, and although this is Baz Luhrmann’s Verona instead of Verona, Italy, it’s its own world all the same.

Now that I am in my post-teenage years, every time I see a version of Romeo and Juliet, it’s amazing to me just how important it is to the plot that Romeo and Juliet are teenagers. In the play, Juliet is 13, and although it’s never explicitly stated how old Romeo is, I don’t think he can be more than 15. Of course, this was in the late 16th century, so those ages weren’t as young. In Romeo + Juliet, Romeo and Juliet’s ages are never stated, but Leonardo DiCaprio was 22 (and could easily pass for somewhere around 17-19) and Claire Danes was 17 when the movie was made. Why is it so important that they’re teenagers? Because only teenagers are insane enough to believably, meet, fall in love, and get married in 24 hours, and then kill themselves when they can’t be together. If adults did that, they would be insane. But things tend to be life or death with teenagers, and the fact that this was just as true in the 1500s as it is now is extremely interesting to me.

Something else that interested me: Chris and I saw this at the Drafthouse (the guy who sold us our tickets was around 30 years old and couldn’t believe the movie sold out – he was obviously never a teenage girl), so it was the first time I saw it in theaters since it came out, when I was almost 9 years old (I remember it being a big deal, this was the first PG-13 movie I saw in theaters). Watching it last night, it struck me how crazy it was to think that the last time I saw this movie in theaters, I was 8 years old, clutching a bunch of religious necklaces (I was really into the religious-themed set designs), with probably either my mom or sister or both, being so amazed at how beautiful and sad it was but also obsessing over what it must be like to kiss Leonardo DiCaprio, or really to kiss anyone. I had never kissed anyone, never had a boyfriend, never been in love. I thought I knew what sex was, but I really didn’t. I wondered what all of that was like (a lot) but I honestly couldn’t comprehend what it was like. And this is going to sound pathetic, but around the time that Romeo + Juliet came out, I was already battling really severe, early onset acne, at an age where most kids didn’t really even know what a pimple was. I was made fun of a lot, and thought nearly constantly about how ugly I was because my face was so bad, and when I watched Romeo + Juliet, my child self couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself, because I was pretty convinced I would never kiss, have a boyfriend, be in love, etc. So then last night, I found myself as a 25 year old with clear skin (thanks mostly to years of Accutane and laser treatments), sitting in a theater next to my boyfriend whom I am in love with and is in love with me, and whom I knew would later go home with me and kiss me. It almost made me cry to think about, knowing I understood the feelings in Romeo + Juliet so much more than I did when I first saw it. And it’s even better, because I’m not a crazy, suicidally-in-love teenager . . . though I’ve been that, too. It was just very comforting; Romeo + Juliet still made me cry, but just because of how tragic it is, not because I felt sad for myself.

Also, can we just talk about how insanely good at crying Leonardo DiCaprio is, especially as Romeo? I don’t think there a ton of male actors that are great at crying onscreen; it either looks fake (because it is and there aren’t any tears) or so overblown that it feels like the audience is being attacked by acting. But leave it to Leo . . . he cries his fucking heart out as Romeo, because he’s playing a teenager whose love and loss pushes him to the point of suicide. He cries tears, his eyes get red and puffy, his nose runs. He cries. And it’s heart-wrenching to watch.

It’s also important to note the “twist” ending that Baz Luhrmann gave Romeo + Juliet; of course it’s not an insane twist, Romeo and Juliet still die at the end. But in the play, and almost every adaptation, Romeo visits Juliet’s tomb, poisons himself and dies, and then Juliet wakes up, sees Romeo dead, and stabs herself to death. In this version, however, Juliet wakes up just as Romeo downs the poison, so she watches him die in her arms. Seeing her slowly start to wake as Romeo prepares to kill himself is almost unbearable. Especially the way the dialogue is manipulated; all the lines remain the same, but are just said at slightly different times (when Juliet laments the fact that Romeo didn’t leave an poison for her, she’s talking to him directly this time). And when Romeo dies, Juliet is left without her monologue, because she’s said everything to Romeo already. So instead, she cries and then wordlessly shoots herself in the head. It’s pretty gut-wrenching.

I’ve said enough, and I need to stop myself because I could write about this movie and this story forever. If for some reason you haven’t seen Romeo + Juliet, just do yourself a favor and watch it, please.

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