Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘A rose by any other name’: A love story for the ages

♥ The Daily Collegian’s Guide to Valentine’s Day 2011 ♥

Daring sword fights, feuding families and a pair of young, star-crossed lovers, set in the romantic backdrop of late 14th century Verona, Italy; William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” may be the greatest love story ever told.

However, not all aspects of the classic work well in today’s world. In modern times, Romeo would be a stalker with a teenage girlfriend. It doesn’t help that mentioning the word “Shakespeare” alone causes many to cringe in horror. To the rescue has been Hollywood, which has graced the world with a few fresh updates to Shakespeare’s original tale of love and loss.

“West Side Story”

This 1961 musical makes nearly every list of best romance films. Instead of Renaissance Verona and arguing families, this adaptation combines the racial tensions of 1950s New York City and the Tony winning music of musical theater greats Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Some of the best dancing in film history, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, adorns famous songs, like “Officer Krupke,” and “America.”
The plot surrounds two lovers from opposite sides of the raging gang warfare that is tearing apart the city. Tony is the all-American boy, and a member of the white gang, the Jets. Maria is the beauty of the Puerto Rican community, and the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. All of Shakespeare’s characters have their sassier parallels in “West Side Story.” This fun, yet tragic, masterpiece is a little lengthy at times, but is more than worth watching.

“Romeo + Juliet”

This one is not for everyone. Shakespeare fans dislike Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation for its deviation from the original play, while film buffs find the campiness less than appealing. For those who are open to it, this film heightens every aspect of the play. The few comedic moments are funnier, while the inevitable tragedy is more heart-breaking than ever. Plus, the image of a drag queen Mercutio tripping on Ecstasy is an image viewers will not soon forget. All in all, Luhrmann makes the original play more relatable by taking it to 1970s Verona Beach. Stars-to-be Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes as the lovers add an enjoyable touch. Other major names in the film include Brian Dennehy, Paul Sorvino, John Leguizamo, Paul Rudd, Miriam Magolyes and the late, great Pete Postlethwaite.

“Shakespeare in Love”

This seven-time Oscar winner is often considered the best of the “Romeo and Juliet” adaptations. The film shows William Shakespeare suffering from writer’s block, when he meets lady Viola de Lesseps. The two fall instantly in love, despite their class differences and Viola’s engagement to Lord Wessex. Viola inspires Will to write a new play, “Romeo and Juliet.” After a tedious and painful search for the right actor for Romeo, Will finds an unknown youth, named Thomas Kent. Much of what happens in the play is drawn from Viola and Will’s encounters. From this point, the film becomes a blend between Romeo and Juliet and another Shakespeare play, “Twelfth Night.” This is a terrific film, and Viola is often considered Gwyneth Paltrow’s best role yet.

“Love + Hate”

This British indie film is largely unknown, but absolutely mesmerizing. The film surrounds teenagers Naseema, a Muslim girl, and Adam, a white Christian. In a poor, urban setting in modern Northern England, an unspoken war rages between the Muslims and the white teens. While Naseema never felt blind hatred for Adam’s gang, (despite her older brother leading a Muslim gang) Adam despises Naseema on sight when she becomes his co-worker. Adam overcomes his racism, and the two discover that, despite their fears, they are perfect for each other. As the tensions between the groups rise, Naseema and Adam realize that they have to escape their narrow-minded city for the acceptance of London if their relationship is going to survive. The film ends with Naseema and Adam on a train southbound, as those closest to the lovers battle each other. The film was nominated for a British Independent Spirit Award. What “Love + Hate” lacks in critical and popular acclaim, it makes up for with a stunning script, talented actors and a brilliant director.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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    Phyllis KalbFeb 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Great article, as usual, written by Alissa Mesibov!