Spellbound

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Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman

In honor of Halloween, I am reviewing two psychological thrillers directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Earlier this week I reviewed his adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s book Rebecca, starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. Today, on Halloween, I am going to the root of psychological thrillers—Spellbound. Why do I consider Spellbound one of the greatest thrillers in film history? Because it’s actually psychological! Like…it’s really about this guy’s psyche, and what could be more thrilling than that?

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Spellbound is an adaptation of the 1927 novel The House of Dr. Edwardes by Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer. It stars the incomparable Ingrid Bergman as the psychoanalyst Dr. Constance Petersen and the dashing Gregory Peck as Dr. Edwardes, the head of a mental asylum. However, after noticing some peculiar behavior of Dr. Edwardes, Dr. Petersen discovers that he is not the real Edwardes. He reveals to Petersen that he killed the true Dr. Edwardes and took his place, but he suffers from a severe case of amnesia and doesn’t even know who he is. Now calling himself John Brown, he leaves the mental asylum. But Petersen, who believes him to be innocent and suffering from a psychological guilt complex, follows him. Together, they evade capture by the police as Petersen uses psychoanalysis to get to the root of John Brown’s guilt complex. It is through Freudian psychoanalysis of a dream that Petersen discovers the truth about John Brown and Dr. Edwardes’ death. And…if you want to discover the truth, then watch the movie.

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Image from the dream sequence designed by Dali.

There are many spectacular aspects of this film. Hitchcock was a true genius with a psychological thriller, and both Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are stellar actors. The question of John Brown’s innocence or guilt is expertly hung in the air throughout the film. Petersen’s genuine belief in Brown’s innocence invests the viewers in the characters. But viewers can never fully trust that Brown is innocent. On top of this, the movie is full of Freudian psychology, from the meaning of dreams to the importance of childhood events in psychological issues. The first spoke lines of the film are two lines from a Shakespeare play, “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” The evil that unfolds in the story is rooted in the characters themselves. The problems are in the human psyche, not destiny. The cherry on the psychological cake is the phenomenal dream sequence designed by surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

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Hitchcock (center) and Dali (right)

If you like suspenseful movies, the philosophy of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, black and white films, or the perfectly handsome Gregory Peck, then Spellbound is a movie for you. Boasting beautiful music that won the Academy Award for Best Score, it keeps you on the edge of your seat while offering a classic Hollywood experience. It is definitely a movie that will keep you spellbound.

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Dr. Petersen and John Brown

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Rebecca

Beware: Spoilers!

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Alfred Hitchcock

This week is Halloween! Kids will go trick-or-treating and jack-o-lanterns will glow, and everything will be a little more spooky than normal. Many people, those who aren’t out scavenging for candy at haunted houses, will get their dose of spooky by watching scary movies—Paranormal Activity, Halloween, Carrie, and the like. I am not a big fan of scary movies like this because I scare rather easily. Also, I prefer psychological thrillers and suspenseful films with creative twists and turns. There is no better filmmaker in this genre than Alfred Hitchcock. So, in honor of Thursday’s spooky holiday, I will be reviewing two of my favorite Hitchcock films that make for good Halloween viewings.

Rebecca is neither Hitchock’s most famous film nor his scariest. It is, however, the only Hitchcock film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Rebecca is a psychological thriller based on the book of the same name written by Daphne Du Maurier. It stars Sir Laurence Olivier as the affluent Maxim De Winter, a widower who is traveling abroad in Monte Carlo. In Monte Carlo he meets a young woman, the protagonist of the story known only as the second Mrs. De Winter, played by Joan Fontaine. Maxim marries this young woman and takes her to live with him in Manderley, his large estate in England. It is here that the second Mrs. De Winter meets Mrs. Danvers, Maxim’s housekeeper, and one of the American Film Institute’s top villains.

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Mrs. Danvers urging Mrs. De Winter to jump from the second story.

Upon settling down at Manderley, the second Mrs. De Winter becomes wrapped up in the psychological pull of the film—the mystery surrounding Maxim’s first wife Rebecca. From Maxim’s family and staff at the house, the second Mrs. De Winter hears all about the beauty and sophistication of Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers is always reminding her about Maxim’s first wife, having a rather creepy obsession with the late Rebecca. She preserved Rebecca’s room, constantly talks about her, and uses her to intimidate Maxim’s new wife. The second Mrs. De Winter finds herself inexperienced and struggling to fill Rebecca’s shoes as the mistress of Manderley, and Mrs. Danvers is always looming in the shadows thwarting her efforts, even urging her to commit suicide. Eventually, the second Mrs. De Winter finds herself even doubting the love she thought her husband had for her. Maybe Maxim never got over his mysterious but glamorous first wife and she must always be jealous of Rebecca. Du Maurier always believed her novel to be a story of jealousy, based on her own doubts about her husband’s feelings about his first fiancé.

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Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier

The second Mrs. De Winter eventually trades her innocence for truth when she discovers who Rebecca really was, revealed by Maxim himself. Rebecca was indeed beautiful, intelligent, and sophisticated, but also led a cavalier social life full of affairs, even after she married Maxim. Maxim and Rebecca made an agreement that she could continue her affairs if she pretended to be the perfect wife and hostess for him and his estate. As time passed, Rebecca grew careless with maintaining her public image, and when Maxim discovers this, he and Rebecca fight. She falls and hits her head, dying. Worried he’ll be arrested for murder, Maxim puts Rebecca’s body in a boat and sinks it, claiming she died in a boating accident.

Now the second Mrs. De Winter can rest assured that she does indeed have Maxim’s love, but their happiness is threatened when that boat is recovered and Rebecca’s body is found, sparking a murder investigation targeted at Maxim. However, when the true circumstances of Rebecca’s death are revealed, Maxim is cleared, and Rebecca found to be an even more disturbing woman than anyone had realized. The movie ends with Maxim and his wife returning to Manderley only to discover that Mrs. Danvers has lit it on fire.

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Daphne Du Maurier

This movie is one of the most accurate book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen. Though Rebecca is not Psycho or The Birds, it is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best works. Mrs. Danvers is one of the creepiest villains ever, and the mystery surrounding Rebecca is both psychologically disturbing and suspenseful. Both Olivier and Fontaine give excellent performances as Mr. and Mrs. De Winter, and the black and white nature of the film gives it a classic feel. With the mystery and suspense surrounding Rebecca, it is definitely spooky enough for Halloween.

The Chocolate War Wins the Battle for Realistic Fiction

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Robert Cormier’s book The Chocolate War has been banned many times die to its dark and violent nature, which some parents have deemed too realistic for their teens.

After the success of S.E. Hinton and The Outsiders, more authors began writing from the point of view of teenagers, young characters facing real problems and dealing with them in realistic ways. Authors like Robert Lipsyte, Paul Zindel, Richard Peck, Norma Klein, M.E. Kerr and Norma and Harry Mazer, according to librarian and essayist Patty Campbell, “took up the challenge of writing novels about serious adolescent realities without succumbing to didacticism”. But the next book that revolutionized the genre was written by Robert Comier. The Chocolate War, published in 1974, was only about two hundred pages, but it had a lasting impact on the young adult genre and the young adults who read it. The Chocolate War revolutionized the genre through its stark realism and its message that not every story has a happy ending.

The Chocolate War is the story of a teenager named Jerry Renault. Jerry refuses to sell chocolates in his school’s annual fundraiser and deals with the ramifications of his decision. In his own way, he challenges the accepted order of things in his school, and his actions mirror the quotation he has taped in his locker from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which says, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Jerry’s classmates, though at first they view him as a hero, eventually react to his decision in incredibly hostile ways and pressure him heavily to sell the chocolates. But Jerry refuses to give in. Cormier describes the profound alienation and isolation Jerry experiences from his classmates as he continues to refuse to sell the chocolates by saying, “Cities fell. Earth opened. Planets tilted. Stars plummeted. And the awful silence.”

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I was unaware until started writing this review that The Chocolate War was made into a movie in 1988. I am off to see if my library has a copy.

Jerry’s story is an old one, the story of the underdog confronting the complacency and confines of society and refusing to stick to the status quo. However, unlike most underdog stories, The Chocolate War has a very different ending. During a boxing match, Jerry is brutally beaten, and the fight is described in graphic detail. At the end of the fight Jerry, drifting in and out of consciousness, tells his one friend, “They tell you to do your thing but they don’t mean it. They don’t want you to do your thing, not unless it happens to be their thing, too. It’s a laugh, Goober, a fake. Don’t disturb the universe, Goober, no matter what the posters say.” Jerry loses the fight, and loses the chocolate war. That is how the book ends.

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Robert Cormier, the award-winning author of The Chocolate War and other realistic books for young adults.

Just as Jerry disturbs the traditions and regular practices at his school, the dark tone of Cormier’s novel and the shocking ending disturbed the young adult genre as a whole. Michael Cart writes that Robert Cormier “single-handedly turned the genre in a dramatic new direction by having the courage to write a novel of unprecedented thematic weight and substance for young adults, one that dared to disturb the comfortable universe of both adolescents and adults… by boldly acknowledging that not all endings of novels and real lives are happy ones.” While realism had been predominant in the genre up until this point, the ending of The Chocolate War pushed realism even further in young adult literature. Until 1974, protagonists for the most part were guaranteed at least some semblance of a happy ending, but Cormier’s novel made even this uncertain, as it is in real life. Patty Campbell writes regarding the lasting impact of The Chocolate War on the genre that it was “not a single anomaly, but the beginning of a body of work, and other writers were freed to follow their own vision, wherever it led.”

Part 1: Why Young Adult Literature is Important

Part 2: What is Young Adult Literature?

Part 3: The Catcher in the Rye and the Creation of Young Adult Literature

Part 4: How The Outsiders changed young adult literature

Meeting Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper at her home in Marshfield, Massachusetts

Susan Cooper is the award-winning author of the Dark is Rising series, and one of my favorite authors.

A few weeks ago, I went on an excursion into Washington D.C. I love going into D.C., and this particular morning I was on a mission. I was going to see one of my favorite childhood authors, Susan Cooper, at the bookstore Politics and Prose. I was so excited when I found out that she was coming to D.C. to promote her newest book, Ghost Hawk. Susan Cooper is most well known for the Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor-winning The Dark is Rising series. Cooper based her books on Arthurian legend, as well as Celtic and Norse mythology. The story focuses on several children who are swept up into the struggle between the forces of good and evil, called the Light and the Dark.

If you have not had the pleasure of getting lost in Susan Cooper’s prose or her worlds, it is an experience that I highly recommend. In elementary school I stayed up late devouring her books, and even roped some of my friends into reading them and acting out the scenes with me at recess. I reread several of her books in anticipation of meeting her, and they are even better now that I am older and can appreciate more of her references to legends and mythology.

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This is the only picture I took of Susan Cooper’s event and, of course, it’s blurry. There were several classes from a local elementary school who also got to come and hear her speak.

At Politics and Prose, I learned some of the fascinating things about Susan Cooper:

  • Cooper grew up right outside of London during the Blitz in World War II. She would leave for school each morning with a backpack on one shoulder and a gas mask on the other. She would sit in an air raid shelter at night, and her mother would read by candlelight. She recalled that every time a bomb fell, the candle’s flame would shake. “When you are a kid,” she said, “everything around you is normal.” She said that the only time she was truly scared was when her father pushed her into their air raid shelter because a plane was flying low and firing its machine gun in their vicinity. She told us that she was scared because she saw the fear in her father’s eyes. Her novel Dawn of Fear is based on her childhood experiences.
  • Cooper attended Oxford University, and had C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien as professors. After college, she worked for the London Sunday Times and her editor was Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels. She was surrounded by so many famous authors!
  • When asked about the inspiration for the Dark is Rising series, Cooper hearkened back to her childhood. She told us, “When you group up with people trying to kill you, you feel strongly about the good guys.” She wrote the first book in the series, Over Sea, Under Stone for a children’s book contest, but ended up not submitting it when the story became darker and more complex. Ten years passed before she decided to write four more novels in the series. She sat down, planned out all of the books, and wrote the last paragraph in the series.
  • On becoming a writer: “I never decided to be a writer, I was born that way, like some are born left handed.”

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    Politics and Prose is a great independent bookstore in Washington D.C.

  • On reading: “You feed your imagination by reading. Reading and imagination are important because they define who you will be when you grow up.”
  • On her writing process: She has a hardback notebook that she writes in every morning. She writes on the right hand side and makes notes to herself on the left hand side. She then types everything up in the afternoons. She likes writing longhand first because she believes that you never really have your full first draft on a computer—it is too easy to revise. She writes around six drafts per book, and doesn’t often reread her own work because she always sees things that she thinks she could have done better.
  • She also told us that there is a story “that has been asking for me to write it for forty years, but I can’t work it out. Someday.”

Until that someday, I will continue to read and enjoy Susan Cooper’s work.

America’s Past Time

In my household, October means one thing: baseball. The first day of October marks the beginning of a month long post-season playoff culminating in the World Series. It’s a glorious thirty days of competition, athleticism, and excitement. In honor of the playoffs, and to get in the mood for the World Series, I’ve compiled a list of my top five baseball movies of all time.

1. The Sandlot

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Though it was not a box office success, this movie has come to define the very heart of baseball. The Sandlot is the story of boys, friendship, and baseball. It’s reminiscent of a time in America long past, with campouts, first kisses, fireworks, and a very large dog. The Sandlot is one of the most iconic baseball movies ever, and a movie everyone can enjoy regardless of their feelings towards baseball.

2. A League of Their Own

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A League of Their Own is certainly different than every other baseball movie because all of the players are girls. The movie, which takes place during World War II, follows the story of a girls’ baseball league while the men are overseas fighting in the war. The film boasts stellar performances from Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, who develop great raport and camdraderie. In this movie, baseball is stripped to its very heart—the love of the game. Plus, it can boast some of baseball’s most famous lines—There’s no crying in baseball!

Image3. Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams is one of the most famous baseball movies of all time. It tells the story of a man with a special calling to build a baseball field for some of the game’s greatest players. In the process, it brings his family together, and everyone is reminded of how special family and baseball are. The movie stars Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones.

4. Bull Durham

Yes, another Kevin Costner baseball movie. This one is unique because it follows a minor league team. Bull Durham is the story of an old-timer who has spent years in the minor leagues and is tasked with mentoring a promising young player. It offers a look into the traditions, superstitions, and practices of baseball.

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As one of the newest baseball movies, Moneyball offers insight into one of the most important developments of the modern game—statistics. Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, who uses a young economist’s mathematical theories to put together a low budget baseball team that sets (and still holds) the record for most baseballs games won in a row. Moneyball highlights the modern method of analyzing players and their values based on statistics, a method that won the Red Sox the World Series in 2004. Moneyball also offers a look at the business side of baseball and how players are traded and teams are assembled. It’s truly a unique picture of the inner workings of a baseball organization.

There are so many good baseball movies that it is difficult to pick the five best, so if you’ve seen the five movies I mentioned above, check out these five honorable mentions:

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This movie tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American player to play baseball in the major leagues. Jackie overcomes racism, prejudice, and discrimination to become one of the greatest players ever.

2. Pride of the Yankees

This film recounts the story of another one of baseball’s greats, Lou Gehrig, who struggles with his baseball career and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a muscle deterioration disease.

3. The Rookie

This movie is the ultimate comeback story of a middle-aged high school teacher who returns to baseball as a relief pitcher.

4. Angels in the Outfield

Christopher Lloyd lights up this comedy as an angel sent to help the Angels win baseball games. This movie also features Danny Glover and a very young and adorable Joseph Gorgon-Levitt.

5. For Love of the Game

Yes, I know, another Kevin Costner baseball movie, but this one is good too. A pitcher throws a perfect game as the movie flashes back to his past career and personal life. The game is announced by legendary Dodger announcer Vin Scully.

Enjoy these amazing baseball movies and don’t forget to watch the NLCS and the ALCS, and then the World Series. Go Dodgers! (Or Cardinals, if you’re Emily)

How The Outsiders Changed Young Adult Fiction

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The Outsiders was published in 1967, when its author, S.E. Hinton, was 18.

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is what many critics consider to be the first book in the young adult genre, as it deals with the intensely personal, emotional, and limited perspective of adolescent Holden Caulfield. After Salinger’s seminal work, however, there is a large gap– approximately sixteen years– before another book fitting the definition of young adult literature appeared. Written by a girl still in her teens and published in 1967, Susan Eloise Hinton’s The Outsiders became an instant success with both critics and young adults alike.

The Outsiders is the story of the Curtis boys, three brothers who have been recently orphaned, and their street gang in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1960s. The book deals mainly with the themes of alienation and loss, but also examines how class affects teenagers. The main characters are from the “bad” part of town, where the inhabitants are lower on the socioeconomic scale and are therefore called “hoods” or “greasers,” and there is a lot tension between the greasers and the kids from the richer part of town, known as “Socs”. These tensions lead to major clashes between the two groups, and cause violence and casualties on both sides.

The novel is told from the perspective of a thoughtful and imaginative fourteen-year old boy named Ponyboy Curtis, who likes to read Robert Frost and look at sunsets. Ponyboy and his friend Johnny are cornered by Socs one night, and Johnny kills one of them in self defense. Through the fallout from that night, Ponyboy’s tenuous world begins to crumble and he begins to realize that pain and hurt are the same, whether you are a greaser or a Soc. The novel is told from the limited perspective of Ponyboy, and as the plot progresses, the reader is able to witness the broadening of his perspective. Ponyboy learns to see things from the other side of the proverbial fence, and discovers, as one rich character puts it, that “things are rough all over”.

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The Outsiders was made into a movie in 1983. The movie was directed by Francis Ford Coppola– you know, the guy who directed The Godfather films. From left to right is Tom Cruise as Steve Randle, Rob Lowe as Sodapop Curtis, C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy Curtis, Matt Dillon as Dallas Winston, Ralph Macchio as Johnny Cade, Emilio Esteves as Two-Bit Matthews, and Patrick Swayze as Darry Curtis.

The Outsiders was a breath of fresh air for young adults, who were used to books with protagonists their age that were not very realistic. S.E. Hinton said in an interview that, “One of my reasons for writing [The Outsiders] was that I wanted something realistic to be written about teenagers. At that time realistic teenage fiction didn’t exist. If you didn’t want to read Mary Jane Goes to the Prom and you were through with horse books, there was nothing to read. I just wanted to write something that dealt with what I saw kids really doing.” There were plenty of books on the market for children and teenagers, but many of them were about teenagers who had lives very different from those of real adolescents. These books were, as Patty Campbell writes in her book, “superficial, often distorted, sometimes completely false interpretations of adolescence, with stock characters, too-easy solutions to problems, model heroes, saccharine sentiment, inconsistent characterization, and represented the attainment of maturity without development”.

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Ponyboy becomes friends with a Soc named Cherry Valance, played by Diane Lane in the film, who helps him realize that “things are rough all over”.

A young adult at the time that she wrote the novel, S.E. Hinton was very aware of the lack of realistic fiction on library and bookstore shelves. Other young adults seemed to be just as starving as Hinton for realistic literature targeted towards their age group. Due to this craving, Patty Campbell recalls that the novel “hit the target and rang the bell” with young adults, and “publishers were eager to fill this lucrative new market with more and more new novels written in the new realistic style”.

Hinton’s novel has characters who struggle with poverty and violence, and lose close friends. The novel also deals with morally gray areas. Ponyboy’s friend Johnny killed another boy, but does that make him a bad person? Is a person like his friend Dally born a criminal, or do his circumstances and childhood shape him? Do rich kids like Cherry Valance really have everything that they need? While Ponyboy has his own opinions on these matters at the beginning of the book, his point of view changes as the events of the novel change him and shape his perspective. The Ponyboy at the end of the novel is older, wiser, and has experienced and learned from pain. And his story has helped many readers grapple with similar issues throughout the decades since its publication.

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S.E. Hinton recognized the need for realistic books about realistic and relatable characters. Her books have impacted generations of readers.

At the time The Outsiders was published the consensus among adolescents and critics alike was that there was a need for books with protagonists who went through and struggled with the things that real teenagers grappled with everyday. A few months before Hinton’s novel was published, Nat Hentoff summarized this feeling in the New York Times when he said, “The reality of being young– the tensions, the sensual yearnings and sometimes satisfaction, the resentment against the educational lock step that makes children fit the schools, the confusing recognition of their parents’ hypocrisies and failures– all this is absent from most books for young readers”.

The Outsiders, on the other hand, was more realistic than the other books on the market, and was in fact based on real events and the characters were based on people Hinton knew. It was gritty and violent and shocking, and teenagers loved it. Perhaps they could not relate to everything the characters went through, but the feelings of loss and alienation that the characters dealt with were, and still are, things that connect people to the book.

Hinton herself understood these things and recalls, “One day, a friend of mine was walking home from school and these ‘nice’ kids jumped out of a car and beat him up because they didn’t like him being a greaser. This made me mad and I just went home and started pounding out a story”. And generations of readers are grateful that she did.

Part 1: Why Young Adult Literature is Important

Part 2: What is Young Adult Literature?

Part 3: The Catcher in the Rye and the Creation of Young Adult Literature

Part 5: How The Chocolate War won the battle for realistic fiction

Romeo and Juliet

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Hailee Steinfield and Douglas Booth as Juliet and Romeo

Romeo and Juliet is one of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays, and it contains some of his most famous scenes and speeches—the balcony scene and Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech, for example. Some of Shakespeare’s best work is in this play, but not everyone is a fan of Romeo and Juliet. In fact, Romeo and Juliet has plenty of detractors. Though the play boasts beautiful language and vibrant supporting characters, many people do not believe in the love story that is at the heart of the play. Romeo and Juliet are both young and the events of their love story take place in about a week. This is the trickiest thing to overcome in order to make a production of the play successful—you have to make the audience believe that a 13-yearl-old girl and a 17-year-old boy have found true love during the course of a week. Easier said than done, but I believe that the new film adaptation of the play directed by Carlo Carlei does just that.

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Douglas Booth as Romeo

Romeo and Juliet stars Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfield (True Grit) and Douglas Booth (Great Expectations) as the star crossed lovers of Renaissance Verona. The success of the movie lies heavily on these two actors, and while their performances are not perfect, they both gave great performances, given their youth. It always annoys me when directors cast 30-year-old actors to play 15-year-old characters, but Hailee Steinfield was only 16 when she filmed the movie, and Douglas Booth was only 21. Steinfield was a very good Juliet. Her performance wasn’t perfect but it was very genuine, and she really makes you believe in Juliet’s love for Romeo. Booth does an even better job of investing the viewer in Romeo’s love for Juliet. He delivers his lines effortlessly, and cries to beautifully he has the entire audience crying with him over Juliet.

The other actors in the movie also help invest the viewers in the love story. Paul Giamatti gives a stellar performance as Friar Laurence (definitely my favorite portrayal of Friar Laurence). He secretly marries Romeo and Juliet, and when Romeo is banished and Juliet engaged to another man, he concocts a plan to allow Romeo and Juliet to be together. He also gives Romeo a good smack on the head when he needs one. Friar Laurence believes in the love between Romeo and Juliet, and more importantly he believes that it can heal the violence between the Capulets and Montagues. And in this adaptation, it does. The movie ends with the two families reconciling after the death of Romeo and Juliet, something that is not in the play. In the end, Romeo and Juliet’s love manages to heal the strife between their families, and Friar Laurence is a part of that. His faith in love and its healing power is so powerful that the reader cannot help but believe in it too. This is truly a great performance by Giamatti.

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Juliet (Steinfield) and Friar Laurence (Giamatti)

Other notable performances include Ed Westwick as Tybalt. Tybalt is rarely anyone’s favorite character in the play. In fact, I think he is one of my least favorite characters, though this movie changed that. I was utterly impressed with Westwick’s performance. He is certainly in no threat of being type-casted as Chuck Bass (Gossip Girl) after such an incredible classical performance. Tybalt was angry, quick to fight, and dangerous, but also a truly passionate character in this adaptation of the play.

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Ed Westwick as Tybalt

As with any Shakespeare adaptation, Carlo Carlei’s Romeo and Juliet is not perfect. Written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes, the play is heavily edited. Some parts, like Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech, are stripped down or cut entirely, while other parts are rewritten in more modern English. I did not particularly mind this because it made the language of the play easier to follow for people like me who find Shakespearean English difficult at times. However, it also detracted from some of allure of the play, which is Shakespeare’s beautiful language, and resulted in the reduction of some of the characters whose lines were cut or paragraphed, like Mercutio.

If you’re in the mood to see a tragic story of star-crossed lovers, then I highly recommend Romeo and Juliet. I enjoyed the movie immensely, and it is my favorite film adaptation of the play (better than Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet). Others may disagree that it is the best film adaptation, but it is decidedly an enjoyable production. Set in stunning Verona with beautiful costumes, sweet music, and wonderful actors, Carlo Carlei’s Romeo and Juliet is one for the books.

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For another, quite different, take on Romeo and Juliet, check out Jonathan Levine’s adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel Warm Bodies.