1978 BBC’s Romeo and Juliet

Then, of course, because this isn’t Tybalt and the Montague Feud, the film steers away from Rickman for awhile to introduce us to other characters. I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews for the two leads in this movie. I wouldn’t call them awful–I find them pretty average. They’re not terrible, but they’re also not terribly engaging, which is a problem in a nearly three hour long movie. 

I do find it interesting that the girl playing Juliet was only 14, so kudos to her for handling Shakespearean dialogue at an age where most teenagers can’t keep up when they’re forced to read the plays in class. Of course, you usually see an older Juliet in productions of this play, even though she is very young in the original. In a sense, what the BBC version is doing here is more accurate, but I think it also provides a problem in that the romance between the two is pretty sedate because otherwise it would look creepy as hell. In fact, it already does look sketchy since Romeo does not receive the same age-appropriate casting and is played by a dude in his mid-20s. That may explain why their ardent passion for each other is so muted, but honestly that’s also a problem beyond avoiding unfortunate implications because it just amplifies how silly they already look in deciding they’re madly in love after one dance. That scene has to convey a lot of passion that just wasn’t here, for whatever reason.

Romeo

“Hey, girl.”

Juliet

“The age difference between us is skeevy.”

Other character-wise, I did enjoy Celia Johnson as Juliet’s Nurse. She brought a lot of energy and spontaneity  (or at least the ability to appear spontaneous) to her scenes.

But one thing that beyond irritated me with this film is I particularly disliked Anthony Andrews’ Mercutio. Perhaps I was spoiled in that I was impressed with the random guy who played Mercutio in the outdoor staging of this play that I saw several years ago, but said random guy brought a lot of charm and wit to the role. You could totally see him as this witty, kind of dirty-minded smartass everyone wanted to hang out with.

That is not the vibe I got from this Mercutio. Instead, Andrews–who I’ve enjoyed in other performances–goes for a manic, mugging Mercutio. This Mercutio just seems like the kind of obnoxious asshole who is clearly really amused with his own jokes and feels the need to emphasize how funny they are with stupid faces and voices. He doesn’t seem like someone anybody wants to hang out with or enjoys being around, which is kind of a problem since he actually is one of the only characters who can associate freely with both feuding families. 

Mercutio

“I just said something really witty.”

Next page: Party time!

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