Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Paradigm shift

Despite a distaste for tragedy, a distrust of how romance is deified in Western culture, and a very limited understanding of medieval English rendered in iambic pentameter, I've always had a soft spot for Romeo and Juliet. And so last night I saw the last two thirds of the Romeo and Juliet movie they made in what, the mid 90s? The one where they keep the Shakespeare script but set the whole thing in 'Verona Beach', with practically-baby versions of Claire Danes and Leonardo Dicaprio, plus a very young Harold Perrineau (Michael from LOST) with dreads, and random other people.

The movie was excellent! The transplanted setting/time was interesting; how they dealt with keeping the lines the same while making it make sense in the modern setting. But ultimately, to have a good Shakespeare movie you need actors who are up to the job--and, to my surprise, they were! Claire Danes was fresh-faced and radiant; Juliet's lines of an enraptured teenager in love flowed so naturally that I hardly even noticed how convoluted the language was.

As for Dicaprio, well, I was astonished to find he could actually ACT back then. (It's a little strange to acknowledge it, because for years I have avoided his movies with the semi-unreasonable little-girl hatred of 'teen idols', ever since refusing to see Titanic.) Inception was the only of his movies I'd seen before Romeo and Juliet, and you can be sure it wasn't because he was in it. Yes, I was impressed by his ability in Inception, but I would think a man in his early 20s wouldn't be as good as he is in his mid-30s. How wrong I was. Even though I really do not care for his under-30 boy-face, eventually his passionate Romeo-ness won me over and I stopped noticing his face. Not only that, but he carried off all the screaming and crying and general carrying on that the play apparently demands (I guess I sorta thought that the sadness would be more sedate). I like the rare movie occasions upon which older men of the strong-and-usually-quiet type turn their faces to the sky and roar in grief, but never before have I seen such a young man make so much bloody NOISE in emotional duress without making me snarky and uncomfortably aware that it's all an act. I'd go on to say more stuff like how I felt real ravaging emotion emanating from this young man, ringing true right down to the undignified sniffling we all make after an energetic bout of crying... but my inner snobby ten-year-old is yelling at me that I just spent an entire long paragraph going on about Leonardo Dicaprio of all people, and how good he is at crying.

But I gotta speak the truth when I see it, and I saw a lot of truth last night.

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