Romeo and Juliet review by George Hooper - Cinema Paradiso
There has never been a tale that has been used to inspire other works than that of Romeo & Juliet. It's a story that never gets old, a tragedy fit for a Greek chorus instead of a British playwright. Imagine my surprise when I watched the new tale of the star crossed lovers and it left me cold, unfeeling to the problems of these two renegade youths as they try anything to be together. There was no desire for a different outcome from this viewer and part of the beauty of the tale is the wishing it didn't have to end this way leaving very little for the film to stand on.
The story to those that don't already know it is about Romeo (Douglas Booth) and Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld) and their warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets. These two proud noble houses are constantly feuding, sniping and treating each other with disdain. When the two fall in love they must hide their romance in fear of it being ripped from their hands. However the two must face far worse in their search to be together than either one of them conceived.
The tale feels like that of Romeo & Juliet, it has the same playful tongue, the same delightfully whimsical conversation style thanks to Shakespeare's insightful turn of phrase but the performers and the director make a melodrama out of the material. The film is lavish and big but never small enough to be intimate. Their romance is expressed through safe little family friendly moments, the idea of a picture perfect love, something we never get to witness.
Steinfeld is perfectly good as the naïve Juliet but Booth is a tragic Romeo, a noble born Montague who has been made into an petulant youth, one you never quite believe to be real, the kind of man his friends see in him. Supporting roles by Paul Giamatti and Damien Lewis liven up proceedings with Lewis cutting to the reputation obsessed Lord Capulet's core while providing a dose of comedy to this very static, unadventurous interpretation.
It's all very well and good to say the words but the heart of the story is lost here and I'm afraid they never really got it in the first place