Beyond the Trailer: Romeo and Juliet (2013)

Romeo and Juliet (2013)
Poster
I've been a fan of Shakespeare's works since I was in high school. It wasn't that I was immediately taken by it. At first, I didn't have the patience for Shakespeare's writing that felt practically like another language. The more I read it, the more I loved it. I was especially fond of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and it continues until now to be my favorite work from Shakespeare.

However, Romeo and Juliet is unarguably one of Shakespeare's most known works. Maybe it is the love or the tragedy element in the story but some people regard it as the greatest love story ever told.

While I have seen other versions of the story, such as the 1968 version with Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting  and the 1996 version with Leonardo di Caprio and Claire Danes, I have decided to focus on the latest adaptation of the timeless story released 2013 with titular characters played by Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld.

Story

(L to R) The Montague Couple in Red, Tybalt,
Capulet Couple in Green and Benvolio at the back.
For the people unfamiliar of the story, the story is about two star-crossed lovers from two brawling houses. The two families can't seem to help but want to kill each other on sight and constantly trying the king's patience with all their disruption of Verona's peace. Juliet is the daughter from the house of Capulet and Romeo is the son from the house of Montague.

Romeo was a young man with the heart of a romantic. He was introduced when his cousin Benvolio came to see him. At first, he had been in love with a lady named, Rosaline and had been
Benvolio visits Romeo at his art studio.
pining for her when his cousin came. Unfortunately, she was a niece of the head of the Capulet family so he didn't believe he had any chance at all.

Juliet was very innocent to the ways of the world. Her family loves her but they could never understand her. However, they thought that she was ready for marriage so they arranged for her to marry a young count named, Paris. Juliet had never considered marriage before but she knew that it was unthinkable to go against the wishes of her parents. To bring the two together, they arranged for a masquerade party.

Romeo climbs to Juliet's balcony.
Wanting to show Rosaline to Benvolio and Mercutio, Romeo and his friends went to the Capulet's masquerade party. Once there though, he was entranced not by Rosaline's beauty but by Juliet's. Not knowing they were from two rival houses, the two fell in love. Of course, they eventually do find out but this didn't change how they feel. This leads to one of literature's most famous scenes, their exchange at the balcony. Romeo wooed her, swore of his love and promised her marriage. They were interrupted by Juliet's nurse but he promised to send word to her the next day.

Romeo knew that marrying Juliet wouldn't be easy and that he would need help. Friar Laurence was
Friar Laurence weds Romeo and Juliet.
someone he knew he could trust. The friar too was sick of the war between the two families, so he saw the union between Juliet and Romeo as a beacon of hope to finally bring peace. He agreed to marry them and with the help of Juliet's nurse, they managed to make it a reality.

Their wedded bliss would only be very short-lived however. Tybalt, Juliet's cousin had challenged Romeo to a duel. He wanted to punish him for having the gall to go to the Capulet house and touching his cousin. Romeo did his best to stop Tybalt and keep the peace but a  in the fray Mercutio was killed by Tybalt. In his grief, he killed Tybalt. He couldn't be left unpunished because the Capulets were crying for his blood, however the fight had started with Tybalt. The king decided to exercise mercy and sentenced Romeo to exile.

Romeo spends the night with Juliet
before he leaves for exile.
Romeo and Juliet were devastated by the deaths and their inevitable separation. They both believed that death was better than separation. Juliet's grief for her cousin couldn't compare to the grief she felt for losing Romeo. If that wasn't enough, Juliet's parents had began plotting to marry Juliet to Paris. Before he left for exile, Romeo went to see his wife and spent the night with her.

On the same day, Juliet was told that she was going to marry Paris. She pleaded her father against it but her father became violent with her. Hoping he could help her, Juliet approached Friar Laurence. He didn't want to worsen her father's ire, so he didn't want to do anything rash. Juliet was losing hope and now wanted to die. Wanting to prevent another tragedy, Friar Laurence propose a plan. He gave her a medicine that would make he appear dead. He would inform Romeo of this plan and together they will wake her with a kiss. This way, they can have their happily-ever-after.
Juliet with Friar Laurence's potion.

Putting all of her faith in Friar Laurence, Juliet did as he planned. She returned home looking happier and apologized to her father for her rebellion. This pleased her parents and they believe this would mean that all would be well in time for the wedding. Meanwhile, Friar Laurence sent a young novice to deliver his letter and herbs for Romeo's wounds.

The next day, the Capulet household was busy with activity preparing for what they believed would be a wedding. Her nurse raced to her room to wake her and get her ready. Merry-making quickly became grief when the nurse discovered Juliet as cold as death.

Juliet's body is taken to her tomb. 
On the way to Romeo, the messenger was stopped by a man with a sick child. He pleaded with the man of God to save his child. Not wanting a child to die, he decided to stop and help an believed he would still have time to see Romeo. When Juliet's body was carried to the church for burial, Benvolio saw everything. He raced to where he knew Romeo was hiding and informed him of Juliet's death. The devastated Romeo saw no more reason to live. He returned to Verona with every intention of dying and purchased poison from an apothecary. Paris was at Juliet's grave and believed that Romeo was there to to cause trouble. Paris challenged Romeo and was killed in their fight. After that, nothing would stop him from doing what he planned to do.

Romeo and Juliet dies. 
Inside the tomb, he finds his wife as cold as the dead. He gives her what he believed would be the last time he would kiss her and drank the poison just in time for Juliet to open her eyes. Romeo dies in her arms. Juliet cried and despaired that Romeo didn't leave any poison for her so she could follow him. Friar Laurence then arrived and tried to get her out of the tomb, but she refused. She wanted more time to be with him. There was a sound coming and Friar Laurence left Juliet so he could delay the visitor's arrival. In his absence, Juliet took Romeo's dagger and pierces her own heart.
... Juliet and her Romeo.

With their deaths, the two families finally opened their eyes to the foolishness of their rivalry. Their civil brawl took away lives of people important to them. It finally lead to the peace of the two rival families. Romeo and Juliet could finally be together and would be buried together as husband and wife.

Costumes

Sketch of Juliet's Garden Outfit.
One of the things I sincerely liked about the movie is the beautiful and detailed costumes. Costumes are important in any film and in this one especially because they give the audience the illusion of being transported to another time. In this case, the Renaissance period.

I am especially fond of how they did Juliet's costumes. They are undeniably pretty. While Juliet had many outfits, I'll talk only about my favorites. Otherwise, I'll never finish this article because Juliet never wears the same outfit twice.

The costumes are courtesy of costume designer, Carlo Poggioli and the company, Swarovski Crystal Business. They employed thousands of Italian seamstresses to help make the hundreds of costumes found in the film. 80% of them were handmade.

Juliet's Garden Outfit

First is the 'Garden Outfit.' I was actually very surprised when I saw the full garden outfit. It is so pretty. It makes me sad to think that we don't see the full outfit from the front in the film. We do see the outfit from the back, but don't see much of the details at the front.

Juliet wears this outfit during the scene where she was first introduced and she was running away from her nurse in the Capulet compound. She makes it look really easy to run in that dress

I find it impressive because I can barely run in a shorter skirt.

Juliet in her Garden Outfit
in the Movie.
This is just one of my favorite outfits and I think it suits the actress very well.  It also suited her coloring. It also shows what Juliet's father meant when he said that his daughter was innocent in the ways of the world and men. The dress made her look young and as care-free as a child.

Sketch of Masquerade Ball Outfit.
Nadja Swarovski, the representative od Swarovski Crystals shared that her favorite Juliet outfit is the midnight blue dress from the masquerade ball. I don't blame her because that had been my favorite outfit as well. It is one of those outfits I'd like to wear myself if I knew I could pull it off.

It must be fun to play Juliet in this movie. Must be like playing dress up. Hailee, the actress playing Juliet even joked that every new outfit she wore became her favorite. In the end, all of the outfits became her favorite.

The ball gown consists of a dark blue dress with long sleeves and intricate designs of the night sky on the skirt. I also like the mask that goes with it. I wonder about its inspiration though. Jokingly, it could have been inspired by Medusa --- but there certainly isn't anything romantic about that.

Juliet's Masquerade Ball Outfit. 
It could be alluding to scene where Romeo likens Juliet as the sun. But I suppose it would make more sense if it is inspired by the stars since the dress is inspired by the midnight sky.

This is the dress that made Romeo fall helplessly in love with Juliet. I suppose it makes sense that they wanted to have a dress that would surely make an impression. Its a beautiful dress. It catches attention without going outside something appropriate for a fourteen year old.

She wore this dress on one of the play's most famous scenes. It is the scene where the two meet at the masquerade ball.

Juliet with Romeo escaping the
Masquerade. 
Romeo and his friends were there to check out Rosaline, but instead Romeo ended up falling for the worst possible person for a Montague, Juliet Capulet. She reciprocated and after Romeo had cut in her dance with Paris, the couple stole away.

Of course it wasn't long before they discovered each other's identities and began their teenage angst of being in love with someone you shouldn't. Pretty much, this is the dress at fault that started the whole drama.

Characters 

Romeo Montague played by Douglas Booth
For characters, I suppose I should start with our hero, Romeo Montague played by Douglas Booth. At first, I thought he looked a little too old to be the 16-18 year old. Admittedly though, I think Romeo's age was never really confirmed so he could be much older.

 Romeo is supposed to be the epitome of a romantic hero. In fact, his name is synonymous to the ideal romantic hero. He is handsome, charming and gallant to the fault. Douglas looks the part, certainly and played the textbook Romeo perfectly. Unfortunately, that may have been the problem. He is cute and he is good at looking so cute but I feel the supporting actors out-acted him a bit. For some reason, I can't seem to buy he is in love with Juliet very much. It looks almost more like a boyhood crush. Then again, maybe that was what the movie was going for.

Another thing that disappoints me is that I didn't really feel his grief of losing Mercutio which was supposed to be what drove him to kill Tybalt. But again, maybe this is me being particular.
Juliet Capulet played by Hailee Steinfeld

Juliet Capulet is played by the then 15 year old, Hailee Steinfeld. I will be honest, she is a very different Juliet from past versions I have watched.

For example, Olivia Hussey's Juliet had innocence and elegance. Claire Danes' Juliet had a 'lost-little-girl' look to hers. I would say Hailee's Juliet has a 'girl-next-door' feel and to be honest that isn't exactly how I pictured Juliet. Rather than the girl-next-door, I saw Juliet as ethereal. Claire Danes got away with it because her version was a modern day adaptation. However, this way it might make Juliet more relatable.

The older supporting cast also out-acted her. She plays the role of the child-like Juliet well but when the role calls for her to take charge and grow up in front of our eyes, it fell short. She still felt like the same child until the end of the movie.
Lord Capulet played by Damian Lewis

When I said that the leads were out-acted by the older supporting actors, one of them was Lord Capulet played by Damian Lewis. He stood out despite being a supporting actor. He sets the mood for every scene that he plays.

One of my favorite parts in the movie was when he threatened Juliet to marry Paris. Even though the anger wasn't directed at me, I felt fear. And when Juliet agreed to marry Paris, I could feel his feelings of relief and accomplishment.  I also enjoyed the way he likes to tease his wife. He milked every moment of his screen time. I can't help but feel sorry for the young leads. They seem paler because of this man.

Lady Capulet is played by Natascha McElhone. I have seen her in another period-movie, Secret of Moonacre. I wasn't very impressed with her there. I think my problem with her there was she over-acted at the wrong times. I think she is at her element here. I read that she was a stage actress, maybe that helped. While I wouldn't say she was perfect, she played the part much better than I thought she would. So far, I think she is my favorite version of the role. She played the concerned mother and submissive or loving wife very well. I like how she plays the role with Lord Capulet too. They are my favorite couple in the movie.

Quotes

It might not be my favorite Shakespeare work story-wise, but I admit that it has some of my favorite lines and dialogue from all of Shakespeare's plays. My first favorite may be words of love, but it makes such good point and you could interpret it in other ways.

For example, Juliet's short monologue

Juliet
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself. 
Juliet, pining for Romeo on her balcony.

The meaning behind it is very simple. For Juliet, the name Montague actually means very little. A rose would still smell as sweet even if you call it a chair. Without the name of Montague or call Romeo by another name, Romeo would still be Romeo, the man she loved. She was not in love with the name, but with the man himself.

In a world where last names always seem to be the basis of a person's worth, this is really something to think about.

Romeo
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.
Romeo, falling for Juliet

I admit that this probably isn't anything more than how it sounds. If it sounds like a declaration of love, that is exactly what it is. There are a lot of lines of love in this play that I like but I think I shouldn't write them all because it will take more time. 

Romeo is saying that he had never known or seen anything as beautiful before. Douglas's Romeo performed this line well and actually looked like a puppy when he saw Juliet. It is sweet but I didn't feel much sincerity in it. Or at least I didn't feel it. 

Over-all

I actually like this a lot less than the previous versions I have seen. I don't hate it or think it is a waste of time because it does have its good points.  The costumes, props and backgrounds are really gorgeous. It is a good watch if you are a fan of Shakespeare, but if you are very particular and have seen other versions like me you might get a little disappointed. If you aren't fans and aren't as particular  --- it is still a good watch because this version makes the story so easy to understand. And if you are into Twilight, you can finally see the original inspiration of the story of forbidden love. I am not into Twilight, so in my opinion this is far superior to it but that is a matter of taste.

I recommend people to watch it, because it isn't as bad as it could have been. Watch it because just as Shakespeare said, "For never was a story of more woe --- Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."





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