Yes, It Was a Trick Question

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched the clip at the end of the post before last!

Were you startled to see that Luhrmann simply cut the Nurse’s speech altogether? Perhaps in an excess of caution, he also cut Old Capulet’s reference to Juliet’s age. So this important point is gone, as is the crucial characterization of the Nurse–in fact, everything I’ve been talking about.

Even stranger, downright inexplicable to me, is Luhrmann’s firm focus on Lady Capulet. Diane Venora’s way-over-the-top Mozart-fueled performance may be intended to suggest an air of decadence at Capulet Manor, but that’s a whole other world than the earthiness Shakespeare attributes to the Nurse. It’s totally the wrong character to emphasize here (Lady Capulet is going to have just one more scene) and gives totally the wrong idea of the household in which Juliet is brought up (though to be sure, Lady Capulet’s lascivious tango with Tybalt is shortly going to go even further in this direction).

I’m exasperated every time I watch this film. Sometimes Lurhmann’s choices are sound, even brilliant for what he’s trying to do with Shakespeare. And sometimes, as in this sequence and in the party scene immediately following, they are so disastrous they belong on the brilliant Canadian series Slings and Arrows. Maybe it’s best to think of Romeo + Juliet as a dry run for Moulin Rouge, the one film in which Lurhmann finds a perfect match between his style and the material.

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