The Bard modernized: When it works and when it doesn't
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Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Strongest cast member: Leonardo DiCaprio’s dreamboat Romeo brought droves of teenage girls to the theater. He and Claire Danes certainly have chemistry and carry the film together, but it’s Danes who really shines with all of Juliet’s youthfulness, innocence, eagerness, fragility and strength.
Why it breathed new life into Shakespeare: Luhrmann’s psychedelic, hyper-stylized aesthetic has divided critics and movie-goers, but one thing’s undeniable: His “R+J” was a bold, innovative new vision for one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays. Set in 1990s “Verona Beach, Florida,” the film dazzles the eyes as the star-crossed lovers see each other for the first time through a fish tank, share their first kiss in an ornate elevator and exchange vows of the famous balcony scene not on a balcony but in a swimming pool.
Other cast: Paul Rudd, John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlethwaite, Diane Venora, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jesse Bradford, Miriam Margolyes, Dash Mihok, Paul Sorvino