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Shakespeare for Social Media? LOL, OK


Charles Murphy/Sundance Institute

If each era will get the “Romeo and Juliet” it deserves, effectively, Gen Z may have to attend somewhat longer for theirs. It in all probability received’t be Sundance entry “R#J,” which is so intently of-the-moment it nearly feels dated earlier than the credit roll.

For his first function, director Carey Williams makes use of Screenlife — through which your complete story unfolds on gadgets — to retell Shakespeare’s timeless story, with a couple of notable twists. This time, Romeo and Juliet fall in love whereas DMing one another emojis and gifs from “The Office.” Purists needn’t apply, in fact, however that’s OK: the Bard can stand as much as interpretations from any period. Then once more, the place’s the dignity in Dwight Schrute? And can we actually contemplate nearly-nude selfies (So. Many. Selfies.) a worthy improve?

What “R#J” does have going for it’s a various solid that displays a wider vary of adolescence than most diversifications. But some teen experiences are everlasting: Romeo (Camaron Engels) and Juliet (Francesca Noel), and their mates Merc (Siddiq Saunderson), Benvo (RJ Cyler), and Nancy (María Gabriela de Faría), largely need to flirt, celebration, and provoke their dad and mom. This is especially simple for R&J, given the blood feud between their households.

As you’ll have heard, the Montagues and the Capulets don’t care a lot for one another. And their animosity has been fueled on-line, as followers frequently goad them to increase their conflicts.

There is an intriguing concept right here, in the way in which social media has changed conventional household buildings, help, and striations. But cowriters Williams, Rickie Castaneda, and Oleksii Sobolev have set themselves a needlessly troublesome job in basing their story on an immortal masterpiece slightly than merely ranging from scratch. They alternate between Shakespeare’s phrases and their very own, and there’s nothing inherently mistaken with twinning fashionable and basic traces. But why trouble, if it means toggling from actually lovely language to DMs like “Jules! WTF r u doing?”

There are moments when Williams’ strategy nearly works, notably when the stronger actors within the supporting solid are onscreen. Saunderson (“Wu-Tang: An American Saga”) is great as a coke-snorting, troublemaking Mercutio, as is Russell Hornsby as Captain Prince. But their ease with Shakespearean language additionally winds up calling extra consideration to the youthful solid members’ problem adjusting to it. (The movie’s credit embody two social media commentators, and one dialogue coach.)

Newcomers Engels (“Clickbait”) and Noel (“Selah and the Spades”) are interesting, however they aren’t set as much as promote these iconic roles. Much of Noel’s efficiency, particularly, consists of scrolling by her feed or reacting wordlessly to DMs.

Williams tells the story by way of FaceTime, Twitter, Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. (What, no Clubhouse?) But why? Yes, there are good causes to discover fashionable modes of connection and disconnection, but we dwell with mundane alerts and gifs and notifications all day lengthy. There’s little that’s entertaining or edifying in watching fictional characters, to not point out beloved ones, textual content “What r u up to?” to one another.

Ironically, if unsurprisingly, the film does greatest when it transcends these codecs. A large-ranging soundtrack overseen by Andy Ross provides some mandatory layering. And characters made up in hanging vogue for a Day of the Dead celebration, or going through off in formless fury for his or her followers, trace at depths which may have been mined additional.

“R#J” is the newest in producer Timur Bekmambetov’s Screenlife movie sequence, which broke by with 2015’s horror flick “Unfriended.” The reality is, this film — which isn’t solely about love, in fact, however violence and loss of life — would have been higher served by a extra forgiving style than Shakespearean Adaptation, which appears to have been chosen considerably at…

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