Is The New Romeo & Juliet Movie Going To Be As Bad As It Looks?

There’s a new trailer up for the Hailee Steinfeld Romeo & Juliet movie, and I was very excited to see it.  I’m of the believe that that DiCaprio Romeo + Juliet movie may not have been high art, but was an important step in bringing Shakespeare to young “MTV” audiences.  So when I saw the trailer posted by MTV News I had high hopes.

There’s a soundtrack, and it’s a cool trailer, I’ll give it that.

But … oh, oh god.  It’s not Shakespeare. They just went ahead and wrote their own dialogue.

Let’s play a game.  Watch the trailer, and mark two points – the first time you hear dialogue that is so very clearly NOT Shakespeare that you can’t stand it … and the point at which you hear so much of it you can’t watch anymore.

For me the first time is the bit at the ball where somebody says, “The Capulets and Montagues are mortal enemies!”

REALLY?  What genius script writer felt the need to add that little bit of exposition?  Show me don’t tell me, isn’t that what they teach in writing 101?

As for the second, my finger was hovering over the STOP (for the love of god, STOP!) button when Tybalt shows up, uttering such Shakespearean classics as, “Don’t let that name be spoken in this house!”  and my favorite, which I knew was coming from an earlier trailer, “Come settle with me, boy!”

But out of my love for Shakespeare and for you my loyal geeks, I had my coworkers tie me to down to the armrests of my chair and forced myself to watch through to the end.

The trailer ends with Hailee doing a voiceover of the “Give me my Romeo” speech that just sticks a fork in the entire thing, because it’s just plain bad.  It sounds like somebody handed her a complete works (perhaps the No Sweat version) and told her, “Read this.”

Am I overreacting?  Will we be talking about this one 20 years later like we do with Luhrman’s version?  Maybe by then at least Hailee Steinfeld will be old enough that I won’t look at her like a babyfaced child when she flops herself down on the bed under Romeo. Ewww.

4 thoughts on “Is The New Romeo & Juliet Movie Going To Be As Bad As It Looks?

  1. Yup. It's been driving me crazy for months. Make and R&J, by all means. And the trailer is lovely. Just don't call it Shakespeare. Call it Julian Fellowes' ROMEO & JULIET. Argh!!!

  2. I remember reading your screams of agony on Facebook, David :). I don't think the non-geeks are going to fully understand our pain on this one.

    You know what? I just realized an analogy that might help others understand.

    Remember how Star Wars is supposed to be? How Han shoots first?

    Remember the first time you saw Greedo shoot first, and the emotional attachment that came with it? That desire to stand up and scream "WTF JUST HAPPENED!? THATS NOT HOW IT'S SUPPOSED TO GO!? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, IT WAS PERFECT THE WAY IT WAS!"

    Imagine an entire movie of that. Watching your favorite movie for the dozenth time, reciting the lines in your head as they come up, and every now and then getting whacked on the side of the head when they say something different than they did the other 11 times, and having that brief moment to wonder if you've fallen in an evil, evil parallel universe.

    That's a little bit similar to watching the ball scene from Romeo and Juliet and hearing a character say, "Juliet's a Capulet! The Montagues and Capulets are mortal enemies!"

    Well, that, and the fact that that's just a stupid unnecessary line that's overly patronizing to the audience.

  3. it's really a shame, because…
    A) any project involving Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti SHOULD be awesome! (I also thought Hailey was great in True Grit.)
    B) it's a weird mix of Shakespeare and Not Shakespeare, which is supremely confusing. I could sort of understand the impulse to rewrite it in more modern or "accessible" language (I don't necessarily agree with that idea, but at least I could understand it), but if you're going to rewrite it, then just re-do it completely and make it your own; don't try to make it sound Shakespearean. so here we've got a horrible mix of real Shakespeare and bad non-Shakespeare that just does a disservice to everyone.


  4. It is certainly "different," to put it politely.
    I have a thought up a few possible scenarios that might account for the faux-Shakespeare sound.

    The director thinks his audience will be too stupid to understand the original play.

    The actors are too dense to read the original lines thus requiring a dumbing down of the script.

    The producers somehow thought that Charles and Mary Lamb were the original authors and Shakespeare adapted it for his play. Plausible? Well, Shakespeare and the Lambs lived a long time ago–back in the olden days before TV.

    And my favorite: This movie was made using the authentic script as originally written by Edward DeVere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

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