I am not sure if any of you are planning on seeing the new Romeo and Juliet. I don’t really recommend it, though it is less explicit than some of the other versions. I think it could still stir some romantic feelings in the hearts of the kids. Romeo is very good looking and even though the kisses are mostly “pecks” they are very passionate. There is also a romantic scene after they get married that I would hesitate to show the students. But that is for the parents to decide!
Here are some pros and cons:
- It is updated and abridged language–so it is easy to understand the plot
- Juliet is young and innocent–good choice
- Romeo is certainly believable
- The death scene really shows the extreme brutality of self harm
- It portrayed Lady Capulet as more supportive and sensitive to Juliet than some of the other versions
- The cinematography is beautiful
- It drove me crazy how they butcher the language. I miss being able to quote the lines as I watch it. It is Shakespeare’s story without Shakespeare’s beauty
- Too much kissy, kissy
- They cut out important scenes
- I don’t like Mercutio or the Nurse
But I wanted to pass along the information on it from Focus on the Family’s “Plugged InOnline” movie review website.
It is PG-13 (mostly violence) but it handles the impure humor in a sensitive way and doesn’t emphasize the bawdy humor. If you want to read below on the exact violent and sexual content, feel free.
Romeo & Juliet
Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny …
So starts the familiar story of two long-feuding families, and two young and beautiful teens―Juliet, from the Capulet family, and Romeo from the house of Montague.
This pretty pair, both just starting out on youth’s discovery of the joys and wonders of life, spot each other quite by accident at a party. And they are instantly drawn together. Of course, they’re also by blood required to be enemies, torn apart by their families’ hatred for one another.
We all know how long that lasts, though. One quick balcony scene later and the two are quite ready to throw care to the wind and be married by the local Friar.
“Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast,” the good Friar warns Romeo about his enflamed I-want-her-now desires. But, well, teen ardor isn’t easily thwarted. Neither is a long-held grudge. And if and when Juliet’s combative cousin Tybalt suspects Romeo of tiptoeing around the family barricades, well, things are going to get nasty. Nasty and deadly.
There are numerous bad decisions made in the course of this story. But it can be said that some of them are at least made with the best of intentions. Romeo and Juliet meet one night and marry the next day, but they both see marriage as the only way to truly show their undying commitment to each other. Friar Laurence is hesitant to perform the ceremony, but he becomes convinced that their holy union might make positive changes throughout the city.
Those three people all earnestly care for and respect each other. And they’re all willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of a righteous cause―Romeo and Juliet for the sake of love and the Friar for the sake of God’s forgiveness.
Friar Laurence repeatedly brings up the fact that God’s way is often mysterious, but it’s also always a patient, sincere and forgiving way. And he personally tries to be that kind of man. The Friar secretly marries Romeo and Juliet and later sets up a ruse to help them be together. Even though those choices go awry, he makes them with the hope that they will heal the enmity between the Capulets and Montagues. (They eventually do so, but not before a horrible price is paid.)
When Romeo and Juliet first meet, their discussion turns to the touch of hands and the blending of lips. Juliet states that lips are intended for prayer and then wonders if she invites in sin when giving in to a first kiss. Romeo assures her, however, of his honorable intentions and soon after asks for her hand in marriage. A large statue of the crucified Jesus overlooks Romeo and Juliet’s wedding as the Friar prays for them and blesses their union. He conducts those services in Latin, but clearly marries them in the name of the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
There are several mentions made of someone being consigned or cast into hell thanks to their choices, i.e. the line, “Best intentions pave the way to hell.” In another case, Juliet’s father, not knowing that his daughter is already married, demands that she marry the nobleman Count Paris. And Juliet worries that she must either be cast out of her father’s home or cast herself into hell for breaking her vows. Juliet wears a cross around her neck.
Shakespeare was known to layer sexual barbs or overtones into some of his scenes. That’s kept to a minimum in this version of his play, but there are a few very light nods given in that direction. For instance, a sly joke is made about two male friends “consorting like minstrels,” Friar Laurence worries that Romeo was out all night playing “Satan’s game,” and a wife rubs up against her husband and subtly hints at past infidelities that would keep him up all night.
Juliet’s nurse reports that her young charge would rather “Lay with a stinky toad” than get married to Count Paris. On the other hand, she doesn’t hesitate to speak glowingly of Romeo’s handsome face and beautiful body. Romeo calls out to his friends, “On lusty gentlemen,” as they walk into a party.
On their wedding night, Romeo and Juliet kiss and embrace―he bare-chested and she dressed in a flowing nightgown. The next morning we see them still entwined in each other’s embrace dressed the same way. Romeo cups his wife’s fully clothed backside.
The Capulets and Montagues are often at each other’s throats or goading one another into hot-headed fights in the streets. And so we are witness to numerous sword and fist fights with either crowds of men swinging blades and wrestling in the dust, or two opponents in deadly combat. We see three up-close swordfights that end with a blade being shoved into the chest or back of one of the foes. Blood subsequently spreads across the slain combatant’s shirt and/or drips from their mouth.
A woman thrusts a blade into her own abdomen in suicide. We see and hear the blade tear through the fabric and flesh, and watch her slump forward. A man also poisons himself.
Juliet’s enraged father throws her roughly back on her bed and threatens her with a clenched fist when she stands against his will.
Crude or Profane Language
Someone is compared to a “b–ch in heat.” And Romeo cries out “Oh my dear God!” A rowdy man is called a “princox.”
Drug and Alcohol Content
A Capulet party features plenty of drinking and revelry. Romeo’s friend Mercutio staggers away from the party swigging from a pitcher full of drink.
Friar Laurence uses the essence of a flower to concoct a powerful sedative that Juliet later drinks. Romeo bribes an apothecary to give him a poison that he can use to kill himself. The Friar’s novice apprentice mixes herbs to heal a sick woman.
Other Negative Elements
The fact that Romeo falls helplessly in love with Juliet upon first seeing her (while she’s wearing a mask, no less) can easily be seen as an illogical and potentially unhealthy choice.
Ah, how doth one speak of a Shakespearean play put to film?
Well, I guess the first step is to recognize that there have been many such efforts made before, and esthetically this one probably falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The 16th century Verona settings and palatial backdrops are lush and appealing. The music is sweet. And the pretty young leads both acquit themselves, uh, nicely. Shakespearean language―even a version like this that’s been tweaked and rendered a bit less poetic―can, and in this case does, overwhelm young actors from time to time. And that drains away some of the tale’s expected fervor and passion. But performances such as Paul Giamatti’s take on Friar Laurence brilliantly make up the difference. (Making this, likely, one of the few versions of this lauded tragedy that lets the good Friar drive the audience’s tearful response.)
All of that said, however, it’s also important to ask what viewers, especially younger viewers, might take away from a beautifully appointed film like this. Shakespeare’s classic story of love and loss has much to offer.
With all its deadly sword fights and in-the-street-squabbles, this costume drama can easily be seen as a cautionary tale of the foolishness of mankind and its warring ways. And its doomed lovers’ conclusion illustrates how we, in our passions, try to control the things of our lives and wrest them away from God’s hand. Friar Laurence remarks pointedly on the idiocy of such a choice. And the film subtly suggests that if Romeo and Juliet had been a little more patient and trusted God to rule their beginnings and ends, then they both would have lived happily ever after, no matter what their feuding families chose to do.
However, colorful images of vengeful battles and tearful lovers’ suicides can convey other messages as well. And that’s where this version of Romeo & Juliet begs, I think, for mature adults to walk younger viewers through some of its more difficult-to-process elements.
Are warnings against strife and suicide clearly perceived in this proscenium-like portrayal … or something completely opposite? How does the unbridled passion of love-at-first-sight fit into our real world experience? With parental involvement, these questions can be rich with thought. Without it, some lessons learned … may be more dangerous than the Bard intended.