Review: ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ Close Your Eyes and Think of Shakespeare

Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth in 'Romeo & Juliet'
Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth in ‘Romeo & Juliet’

If every generation gets the Romeo & Juliet it deserves, then this generation is doomed to relive the past in a reverential and utterly unremarkable series of close-ups.

Adapted without distinction by Julian Fellowes and directed without distraction by Carlo Carlei, the 2013 movie edition of William Shakespeare’s tragedy features Hailee Steinfeld (15 years old at the time of filming) and Douglas Booth (19 or 20) as the young lovers, and even there the casting is mismatched. Perhaps if Kodi Smit-McPhee (15) had starred as Romeo opposite Steinfeld’s Juliet, the story of two teenagers caught up in smoldering adolescent passion would have played better, and possibly would have elicited greater empathy for the characters.

As it is, however, Smit-McPhee is relegated to playing Benvolio, Romeo’s would be peacemaker of a cousin, and Booth and Steinfeld must endeavor to spark a relationship with chaste kisses and the utmost respect for one another’s personal boundaries. Frankly, it plays out like a college boy courting a 15-year-old girl, which makes it, more than anything else, awkward and uncomfortable. Neither of them is a disaster, but then neither is called upon to do much more than recite their lines with breathless abandon and stare into one another’s eyes at just the right angle to allow key lights to bounce off their irises.

To read the rest of this review, please visit Twitch. The film opens wide across the Metroplex on Friday, October 11.

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