Following on from his slightly unnecessary reworking of 'Titanic' for the small screen last year, 'Downton Abbey' writer Julian Fellowes now tackles another story which transformed Leonardo Di Caprio into the ultimate mid-90s pin-up with the latest big-screen adaptation of 'Romeo & Juliet.'
Unlike Baz Lurhmann's radical reworking of William Shakespeare's most famous play, which transferred the tragic tale of the two star-crossed lovers to a modern-day setting, this Renaissance Verona-based version is a much more traditional affair.
With Fellowes regularly throwing in his own brand of 'Bardspeak' and a visual aesthetic every bit as luxurious as the Swarovski crystal brand which helped to fund the film, Italian director Carlo Carlei's first English-language foray in eighteen years does at least manage to carve out its own identity.
However, Romeo & Juliet does come up short where it matters the most - its two lead characters. Nominated for an Oscar at the tender age of 14 for her role in 'True Grit,' Hailee Steinfeld's talent is undeniable but as she struggles to sustain her English accent, her Juliet comes across as rather stilted and self-conscious.
Meanwhile Douglas Booth, who was superb as Boy George in the BBC2 drama, 'Worried About The Boy,' looks more like he's auditioning for a boyband than portraying one of literature's most romantic heroes, ensuring that the duo lack the spark that made Di Caprio/Danes such a compelling cinematic pairing.
Fortunately, the rest of the cast appear to relish their opportunity to ham it up, particularly RSC veteran Damian Lewis as Lord Capulet and Gossip Girl's Ed Westwick as the Disney villain-esque Tybalt. While Paul Giamatti steals the show as the world-weary priest Friar Laurence, particularly in the scene where he repeatedly smacks Romeo over the head over his forbidden obsession.
Romeo & Juliet, therefore, is a perfectly watchable way for GCSE students to brush up on their Shakespeare. But its largely conservative approach still leaves you longing for some of the pizzazz of its MTV-friendly predecessor.
Jon is a film and music obsessive from Wigan. His favourite films include Battle Royale, Dead Man's Shoes, Kill Bill and The Shining. He also has a weak spot for anything starring Adam Sandler apart from Jack & Jill.
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