Guilt Trip: Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Under love’s heavy burden do I sink to tell you that Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is easily one of my favourite movies of all time. I can feel your leering eyes, judging me through the paper. Some might say it’s almost sickly in the way that it seethes garish colour and embellished set pieces. But honestly, these are some of my main reasons for liking it, and if I’m feeling particularly absent of romance when V-day dawns (let’s not kid ourselves), it’ll be the first film I reach for in my collection.

It’s not important to say how many times I’ve watched it… but let’s just say it’s a lot. Regardless, I always manage to notice something new. The set pieces and outfits are incredibly detailed. It’s almost as if the film exists in a strange microcosm of fashion. The iconic Hawaiian shirts, Leonardo DiCaprio in his armor and sweeping bangs, Claire Danes’ angel wings, and uh, Paul Rudd in a spacesuit. Luhrmann somehow manages to turn Venice Beach into Verona, at points filming in a storm under the famous arch to capture some of the film’s most captivating speeches.

The mixing of Shakespearian themes with 90s fashion are further juxtaposed by powerful moments of anguish. John Leguizamo puts in a powerful shift as Tybalt, with a budding Leonardo oozing prowess, holding his rose-embroidered gun to his head and ordering him to pull the trigger after Mercutio’s death. The range of feelings experienced in this movie is quite something; Romeo + Juliet is the emotional guarantor in my DVD rack.

“The iconic Hawaiian shirts, Leonardo DiCaprio in his armor and sweeping bangs, Claire Danes’ angel wings, and uh, Paul Rudd in a spacesuit”

I always watch out for all the street signs and newspapers that flash by, as they often contain fun references to lines of Shakespeare. I respect this movie so much for how it uses the source material to spin a world around a talented cast and setting unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

Romeo + Juliet creates a special kind of romantic Utopia, accentuating the past and rejecting the strain of our daily lives in place of romance and love, even though it inevitably ends in tragedy. It always comes across to me as a hopeful movie, something that tugs fervently on the heartstrings, encouraging me to reflect and embrace my emotions. If the film itself wasn’t enough, the outstanding soundtrack is what cements it in my personal hall of fame. To name a few, we have the effortlessly punchy ‘Local God’ by Everclear and a melancholy triumph in Radiohead’s ‘Talk Show Host’. So if boisterous love is pricking you like a thorn, defy the stars and take in Luhrmann’s best as you sob into your Ben and Jerry’s this February 14th.

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