Craig's First Take: "Romeo and Juliet"

Photo Credit: © 2013 - R & J Releasing, Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Wow, “Romeo and Juliet” really shocked me! I was not expecting Father Lawrence to take bloody revenge on those who forced the star-crossed lovers to perish, or Capulet and Montague sending gigantic killer robots to destroy each other’s houses, or Juliet to have to deal with Romeo’s addiction to naked sculptures. I wonder what Shakespeare would think of this?

For those that haven’t already figured it out, I’m being a smart-ass. R+J=all of the same, of which there are a very many movies. I tried to count them all on imdb but saw a list that went on forever and then just decided to go with a lot. Why do another? Idk, it couldn’t have been to see what director Carlo Carlei did with the material. His last American film was 1995’s “Fluke” and his direction here mirrors every version of this thing you were forced to watch in English class, unless you were fortunate to get the Baz Luhrman one.

More than likely writer Julian Fellowes was the main draw here, the man behind “Downton Abby”. It’s about as stodgy and familiar as it gets. The Montagues and Capulets are fighting, Romeo (Douglas Booth) meets Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”) at a feast, what feels like endless pronouncements of love ensue, they marry, Tybalt (Ed Westwick), the Capulet cousin, isn’t happy about it, neither is Daddy Capulet (Damian Lewis), but Father Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) has that great plan with the drugs.

Booth seems to be doing everything right here, but I prefer the passion DiCaprio brought to Romeo in Baz Luhrman’s version. Booth looks and recites every line as if he’s just been stunned and he seems far too preoccupied with the words to really make us feel the romance. And Steinfeld hardly seems like any object of affection (she barely looks a day past 12) and her crying and whining hardly help matters. The best comes from the overbearing Damian Lewis as Capulet and Giamatti’s kindly Father.

But the only way this thing could be more old-fashioned is if they had had Justin Bieber play Juliet. No one seems to have wanted to have any fun with this thing, even the opulent palaces, extravagant feasts, and costumes just sink into the background, looking nice while also seeming commonplace. I know sitting through classic literature is something I should be doing on occasion but does it have to be this lacking in excitement?