My first thought, upon hearing that producers were cooking up yet another adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” was something along the lines of, ‘This? Again?’ The star-crossed romance to end all star-crossed romances has been well served on screen over the years, while other Shakespeare works await definitive adaptations; you wouldn’t think there are many new angles left to explore in it.
But, of course, there don’t need to be. More than any of the Bard’s plays, “Romeo and Juliet” has a generational hand-me-down quality to it. Carlo Carlei’s new adaptation isn’t for me or my contemporaries, for whom Baz Luhrmann’s postmodern 1996 take still seems a disconcertingly fresh memory; nor is it for the boomers whose hearts fluttered for Franco Zeffirelli’s Oscar-winning 1968 version.
No, this is for the teenagers who weren’t even born when Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes made eyes at each other across a crowded fish tank, and for whom the age-old story might still hold some surprises. (Though not if this trailer, which pretty much tells the tragic tale from beginning to end, has anything to do with it.) For their purposes, this new version — scripted by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes, recently of “Downton Abbey” fame — should do the trick: Hailee Steinfeld (who, we mentioned yesterday, is set to be quite ubiquitous this year) and Douglas Booth sure are pretty together, for starters.
It’s interesting, however, that the MTV trappings of Luhrmann’s version are nowhere to be seen here, save for a stately pop song in the trailer. Carlei and Fellowes are playing things considerably more conservatively in their straight period reading, counting on the youthful stars (along with Ed Westwick as Tybalt) to draw in the new audience. (Paul Giamatti, “Homeland” star Damian Lewis and Lesley Manville are among those making up the grownup contingent.) It’ll be interesting to see if it works.
Check out the trailer below (I’m told it’s new, though I saw a very similar one in UK cinemas last week) and see what you think; I’m off to ponder my haggard reflection in the bathroom mirror and wonder where the last 17 years went.