Ever tried to use a translator website? BabelFish? Google Translate? When you put your English phrases in, and click the ‘French’ button, what comes out isn’t French. It’s nonsense. And that same phenomenon cripples Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.
The chief problem is that Luhrmann thought he would be clever, update the settings and the dress-code, but keep the dialogue. A few Hawaiian shirts here, guns instead of swords, bish-bash-bosh, job’s a good ‘un, home in time for tea and awards.
Actually, all he did was create a ridiculously stupid film where carrot-topped frat boys in floral pattern shirts and cut-off jeans run around talking as if they’ve fallen out of a time machine and straight into a branch of the GAP. Shakespearean dialogue needs a certain gravitas for it to work, and you certainly ain’t getting that from the likes of Leonardo diCaprio. He looks about 12, for Christ’s sake.
Then there’s the cinematography. Again, going for a modern twist on a classic tale. Sadly, the result is a series of jarring edits, outrageous gimmicks and an approach that’s so scattergun that watching the film feels a little like being assaulted.
Trying to fuse cool-dudes-at-the-beach with the kind of chatter purveyed by men with frilled collars didn’t work. Fortunately the soundtrack is surprisingly entertaining. It’s a quirky mix of disco and sun-kissed pop, the pinnacle of which is Lovefool by The Cardigans. It’s a summery pop nugget, with nice guitars and nicer keyboards. Lovely stuff…