That cult classic Romeo and Juliet is back on DVD again, along with Belle, a period drama inspired by the life of an 18th-century Londoner of mixed ancestry, Dido Belle.
Keen to see if they matched my expectations, I started with the latest incarnation of Romeo and Juliet. It stayed true to the infamous and tragic love story but it was the ultimate snooze fest. Finding it hard to keep my eyes open, I had to will myself to watch to the end. I still ended up a teary mess at the end of it but then again, I’m an overly emotional person, a total sook.
In Shakespeare’s work, Juliet was the tender age of 13. Hailee Steinfeld playing Juliet definitely looked like a child which didn’t really sit well with me because Douglas Booth (who portrayed Romeo) looked way too old for her. It completely changed the dynamic. Their mimicry of Shakespearean speech made it difficult to follow, probably more so for the new generation of teeny boppers who haven’t seen the 1996 Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes version (swoon).
I asked my younger sister what she thought. “It was so freakin’ boring I fell asleep,” she said in disgust.
Maybe you should let this one sit on the shelf for a little while longer.
Rating: 1 star out of 5
Belle is inspired by a famous painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle in the late 1700s. Dido, the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer, took her place in a British aristocracy that wasn’t exactly ready for her.
Described as a “Jane Austen novel come to life”, it definitely has a load of appeal to a wide range of audiences. It is a period drama that tackles a diverse range of social issues – racism, true love and hierarchy versus status in wealthy families – with sophistication and grace. While they speak the formal English of the educated classes, but it’s easy to comprehend and very enjoyable to watch.
Dido is played powerfully by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Other stalwarts of British stage and film feature including Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid and Miranda Richardson. Even Tom Felton redeems himself after years as a nasty little wizard. I strongly recommend you give this film a chance. Belle proves that period drama does not have to be boring. This movie offers a really interesting glimpse of life back in Georgian England all those years ago.
Rating: 4½ stars out of 5
– Heba Dandachi