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Tom Logan (Robert Redford) is a successful prosecuting attorney, who is about to promoted to DA.  However, antagonistic defence lawyer Laura Kelly (Debra Winger) asks him to help her on a case involving Chelsea Deardon (Darryl Hannah), a young woman who has been accused of stealing a valuable piece of art.  As Tom and Laura delve further into the case, they discover that it involves fraud and murder….and Tom’s chances of making DA are looking slimmer and slimmer…

When this film was released, it opened to mixed reviews.  Neither Redford nor Winger were happy with it, and at times it does seem as though it doesn’t know whether it’s a frothy romantic comedy, or a semi-serious legal thriller.  There are also some fairly obvious plot inconsistencies.

Despite this, I really enjoyed the film…it has a definite charm, and certainly made me laugh.  Whether it’s true that Redford and Winger did not get on off-screen or not (as has been rumoured), they do have chemistry together, and bounced off each other well.  There were some lovely scenes – the scene where both Tom and Laura, both in their own homes, are unable to sleep, was one of my favourite parts.  Most of the supporting cast – including Terence Stamp as a shady art dealer, and Brian Dennehy as a police officer with his own agenda – were great too, although Darryl Hannah was practically catatonic.  I imagine she was picked for the role at least partly for her looks, and in other films she has been great, but she was the definite weak link in the cast for this.

Still, as mentioned earlier, despite all the obvious flaws of this film, I liked it a lot.  It’s a good watch if you want something amusing and not too demanding, and I would definitely see it again.  I can imagine that people might find it annoying, for legitimate reasons, but for some reason, it worked for me.

(Interestingly, this film started out as a documentary about the legal wrangling over the estate of artist Mark Rothko.  Somewhere along the line, it took a very different turn!)

Year of release: 1986

Director: Ivan Reitman

Producers: Ivan Reitman, Michael C. Gross, Joe Medjuck, Arne Glimcher, Sheldon Kahn

Writers: Ivan Reitman, Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr

Main cast: Robert Redford, Debra Winger, Darryl Hannah, Terence Stamp, Brian Dennehy

 

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1996, Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and certainly a very famous love story, was given the Baz Luhrmann treatment. The setting was moved to Florida in the current day, although the original Shakespearean text was retained.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Romeo, and Claire Danes is Juliet. Support is provided by – amongst others – John Leguizamo, as Tybalt (and he very nearly steals the movie), Harold Perrineau as Mercutio, and Paul Sorvino and Brian Dennehy as Juliet’s father and Romeo’s father respectively.

The story is well enough known for me not to write a very lengthy synopsis here, but in effect, it is the tale of Romeo and Juliet, the children of warring families, who fall in love and secretly marry. I don’t think it’s too spoilerish to say that things don’t end well!

I have seen this film before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, it had been so long since I watched it that I decided to revisit it, and being a big fan of Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge (also starring Leguizamo in a scene stealing role), I expected that Romeo + Juliet would be a big hit for me. Unfortunately I came away thinking that sometimes it’s best not to revisit films you loved years earlier! In this instance, I felt that the film was a triumph of style over substance. It certainly looks fantastic, and for the most part, the Shakespearean language manages not to feel out of place in the present day setting.

As one might expect from a Baz Luhrmann film, this picture is full of colour and flamboyance, and it boasts an impressive soundtrack (the Des’ree song, ‘Kissing You’ which plays over Romeo + Juliet’s first meeting, is particularly lovely). Some of the acting is terrific – the aforementioned Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite and Mariam Margolyes are all excellent – and Sorvino and Dennehy are fine as the warring heads of the two families. In truth, the weak links in the cast are DiCaprio and Danes. DiCaprio is a gifted actor, but I don’t think he was right for the part of Romeo, and Claire Danes was fine as Juliet in the beginning, but as things got worse for her character, I lost interest in her portrayal.

On balance, I would say that this film is worth seeing, purely for the different take on Shakespeare’s work (there are SO many ways in which his plays can be performed and interpreted), but I prefer the more classic telling of this love story, rather than the modernised flashy version. Still, if it gets anybody interested in learning more about William Shakespeare, that can only be a good thing.

Year of release: 1996

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Producers: Baz Luhrmann, Jill Bilcock, Martin Brown, Catherine Martin, Gabriella Martinelli

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann

Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Harold Perrineau, John Leguizamo, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy

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