Carlo Carlei’s handsomely mounted “Romeo and Juliet” using Rennaissance Italian locations approaches the visual splendor of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 classic. Abel Korzeniowskiis score references Zefirelli’s version, quoting a tune from Nino Rota’s passage. Art Director Tonino Zera and DP David Tatersall gives us a resplendent Verona.
A group of talented young actors mine the wit and drama of Shakespeare’s immortal text: dashing Douglas Booth ( Pip in BBC’s “Great Expectatioons” “L.O.L.”) is a marvel as the lovelorn Romeo. Benvolio (the marvelous Kodi Smit-McPhee- “The Road”), Mercutio (Christian Cooke-“The Promise” (2010)) and Tybalt (Ed Westwick-“Children of Men”) all revel in their lines (especially Kodi Smit-McPhee.) They are the soul of the piece and a compelling reason to see this version.
The bedeviled rival families are aptly played by Lord Capulet (Damian Lewis), Lady Montague (Laura Morante) Lord Montague (Tomas Arana), and Stellan Skarsgård plays the Prince of Verona with vigor. Matt Patresi (“The International”) is impish as the First Capulet Servant as is Lesley Manville (“Vera Drake”) as Juliet’s doting Nurse and accomplice.
The usually resourceful Paul Giamatti was underwhelming as Friar Laurence, and Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld-“True Grit”), not really up to the part, gave a mush mouthed performance. Julien Fellowes’ screenplay changes some of the Bard’s immortal lines, to what end, I wondered.
These caveats are not a reason to miss this film, which delights on many levels and introduces another generation to the classic love story. Opens in LA October 11