Baz Lurhmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet has become so iconic that it’s easy to forget that it was released in 1996: thus the latest version of Romeo and Juliet featuring a young cast can hardly be accused of overkill.
Hailee Steinfeld, so wonderful in her Oscar nominated role in True Grit, takes on her first lead role as Juliet, whilst Douglas Booth, best known for his role in Great Expectations, plays Romeo. With Romeo and Juliet developing little as fully formed characters throughout the play, it’s crucial that their relationship is not only entirely believable and fraught with chemistry, but importantly can be completely and utterly be bought into by its audience. We need to care and we need to be moved by the tragic end; whether or not the coupling of Steinfeld and Booth will demonstrate this of course remains to be seen.
The pair are, regardless of the end result, supported by an excellent cast that includes Damien Lewis (as Lord Capulet) and Paul Giamatti (as Friar Laurence) and a lavish period production. I am far from a Shakespearean purist and have always heaped praise upon the bawdy, immediate and altogether passionate Lurhman production; it is this very quality that at the moment seems to be lacking in this latest production, it all looks too staid, too genteel. As ever, my impressions are based solely upon the trailer, so I may well be mistaken: Ed Westwick’s casting as the angry young Tybalt certainly looks set to be a step in the right direction.
I’ll certainly watch this latest incarnation, and I hope it is a worthy effort (the young age of the cast should bring a freshness to the narrative) but upon watching the trailer, the first thing I did was seek out my Baz Lurhmann copy.