A conceptually lacklustre effort that strips Shakespeare’s play down to its bare bones, and exposes just how dreadful the story actually is. Suffering the leads trying to enact star crossed love is like watching two bricks smash continually into one another, as Romeo comes across as a pathetic and vain dolt abusing the hopeless naivety of young Juliet. They first meet during a masquerade (was it as such in the play? I can’t remember) and given it’s supposed to be love at first sight, it seems somewhat odd when they can’t actually see at least half of the others face. What would have been more interesting is if Romeo had unmasked Juliet and said “Hmm, actually I think I made a mistake, sorry love, where did that other one go. Rosaline!”
The only saving graces for the film are the old acting hands who do a pretty convincing job, especially Paul Giamatti, playing friar Laurence, continuing his penchant for scene stealing (that’s not to say Douglas Booth as Romeo and Hailee Steinfeld as Juliet don’t convince, they do – just not really until their final scene together … ) and the costumes and set design, although it does very much look like the marriage scene was done with the aid of computers for some reason. Director Carlo Carlei must take a large share of the blame here, who seems to have taken a leaf from Tom Hooper’s book and decided that whenever one of his freshly faced nubile actors are onscreen he will zoom right in until their noggin fills the entire frame, not so great when you have one dramatic scene all but ruined by the large nose hair waggling away in time with The Bard’s lyrical lines. That is, of course, if you can actually make out what those lines are – much of the first third of the film is either badly recorded or mumbled and the experience quickly goes from ‘What? What was that?’ to ‘Actually, I don’t care any more’ as everything becomes a droning phrssssssssss sound.
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Benvolio is easily the best here out of the newcomers, and will be the phoenix rising from the ashes of this film.