Well, there's a brand new Romeo and Juliet movie coming out this year, so I suppose it's fair to give the other two big adaptations a look before I see that one. I recently read the play, and I've got to admit, it far exceeded my expectations. I became more interested in William Shakespeare's works following my reading of this one. After reading a few more I can say that it's far from the best of his, but it's a very good work nonetheless.
Let me note that I'm going to "spoil" the ending. If you don't know how it ends, I'd get up from that cozy rock that you've been staying under.
The play and film follows Romeo who is sad because the woman he wants to marry; Rosaline, doesn't love him in return. His friend Mercutio tries to cheer him up by taking Romeo to the Capulet's party where he sets eyes on Juliet. The two begin meeting in secret, and are eventually married. Everyone knows of that part, however many who haven't read the play struggle to discuss what occurs until the end, which is the best part of the play. Romeo kills Juliet's cousin so he is banished. The friar plans to fake Juliet's suicide so that Romeo can come rescue her, and go off to a new life. However the Friar's message doesn't reach Romeo, so his friend Balthasar misinforms him that Juliet actually died, the true comedy of errors. Thus, Romeo poisons himself and once Juliet awakens takes her own life.
That is the main story to the play, however there is a major backbone, which is explored masterfully in this work. The two families continue to feud, which sets the backdrop for the romantic story. This film heavily focuses on that, making it less of a romance, and more of what it really is: a tragedy. That is where the Dicaprio version falls flat, which I will delve into once I get to that film.
The acting in this movie isn't superb. It's Shakespearean. The lines are done better than any other film adaptation that I have witnessed, and at times (for the better) I feel like I am watching the movie being played on a stage. It's colorful, and huge which gives it the feeling of a play. It's not often that you see something done like this, but the difference is very nice.
For me, there are only about 10 perfect movies, but Romeo and Juliet meets that level. It is so polished, and so well preformed that it sucks in the audience. The people in my class when I read this hated the movie, and loved the 90s version, but in all honesty this one takes the 90s version like a baseball and hits it out of the court. If you want a Shakespeare film that will entertain and actually make the ending sad, then this one is by far the one to go with. If he were here, Shakespeare would be proud.