I defy you, stars

Boy's English class is reading Romeo and Juliet. They are watching scenes from the Zeffirelli movie, because the Luhrman has violence, sex, drugs and transvestism - you know, just like the play. 

Seriously, I don't blame them for sticking with Zeffirelli; it's safer than risking the parental reaction to Luhrman. But it means the kids miss the glory of Harold Perrineau's Mercutio, which is simply the finest Shakespearean performance in film. Luhrman's work is hard to take; it's frenetic energy and wild choreography hit you between the eyes, and it's often too distracting. But if you can make it through the first twenty minutes, your mind acclimates to Luhrman Land and that's when amazing things happen.

I always liked DiCaprio's Romeo - he didn't play a lovesick waif, but a street-tough young man with intelligence and common sense who is simply bowled over by love. Claire Danes is passable as Juliet, but the supporting cast really shines, even in the frenetic pace and sped-up choreography - especially Pete Postlethwaite as the friar.

There's nothing precisely wrong with the Zeffirelli, except maybe those tights, and Stephen Whiting plays a weak Romeo, if I recall correctly. Still, I told Boy to give Zeffirelli his due: Olivia Hussey is absolutely luminous as Juliet, and brilliant in her portrayal, though shooting her nude at age fifteen was not exactly Zeffirelli's best choice. (Wanna bet that scene is not on the approved list in English class.)

And let's just kill this now: I absolutely hate the meme that bitches that the play isn't a romance, it's a one-night stand between teens that got several people killed. They are young, but in that era, people married young, had children young and died young. Snide cynical memes forget what it is like to be young and in love, the overwhelming emotion that fills every waking thought. We all forget. And yes, they had only a brief affair and married quickly. Only knowing each other for days was a luxury in a time when marriages often were arranged by parents. We forget that these stories are also products of their times.

But in this it is right: it is not a romance. It is a tragedy, a tale of love torn apart by greed, hatred and prejudice. As discovered by Tony and Maria, there are no happily ever afters in worlds that let hate run amok as if it were something to which to aspire. That is, unfortunately, something from Shakespeare's time that continues today.

So Boy is watching the Luhrman at home, and it's fun watch him wig out to it. "Ha! Longsword!" Mercutio fanboy. Once he's done, we will watch Shakespeare in Love. It'll have a whole new meaning for him.