his particular play is not in my top ten of William Shakespeare's tragedies, so I was encouraged to see that Julian Fellows ("Downton Abbey") tinkered with the script. It didn't hurt. In fact with one minor tweak, he made it a bit more accessible for today's audience.
As you already know, these teenage lovers are from families who are sworn enemies, but they hope their marriage might start to mend the rift. The Montagues and the Capulets are forerunners of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
- * Douglas Booth ("Pillars of the Earth") as Romeo, whose rash response to his friend's death launches this tragedy, is dismayed to learn that his name automatically makes him an enemy of her family. "A rose by any other name..."
- * Hailee Steinfeld ("True Grit") as Juliet, the distaff side of our star-crossed duo. "Anon, nurse! Anon!"
- * Christian Cooke (lots of TV) is Mercutio, whose death has to be so wrenching we can understand how Romeo feels. This is a vital role!
- * Damian Lewis ("Homeland") is Lord Capulet, determined to keep his precious daughter out of Romeo's hot hands. (Get a load of his haircut.)
- * Stellan Skarsgård ("The Avengers") is the Prince of Verona. A wise ruler, indeed!
- * Paul Giamatti ("Sideways") is The Priest, our enabler who wants to see these sweet lovers in each other's arms. His is far and away the best depiction of this role I have ever seen, and I've seen this many times!
- * Leslie Manville ("Cranford") is The Nurse, another enabler who loves her young charge so much she only wants to see her happy!
- * Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road") is Benvolio, the sweet well-intentioned young fellow who rushes off to bear those ill-fated tidings to Romeo. Just remember: "The road to hell is paved...."
I have several observations: 1) It's always risky to cast a hero who is prettier than the heroine. 2) The locations in Italy (Mantua, Veneto, Lazio, Verona and Rome) are amazing! 3) Giamatti has set a new standard with his portrayal of The Priest. 4) You do NOT gallop a horse on cobblestones. Watch Romeo's horse slip as it comes around the corner. Eek!
This PG-13 film is done with loving respect for the language and no lack of talent. Expect swordplay but no profanity, nudity or blowie uppie stuff. I was impressed.