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Featured DVD: Private Romeo

July 26th, 2012

Private Romeo - Buy from Amazon

Private Romeo, as the name might indicate, is a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The big twist here, besides the military school setting, is the nature of the tragic romance. It is part of Gay cinema. Is this enough to make it stand out from all of the other adaptations of Romeo and Juliet? Will it appeal to fans of Gay cinema? Will it have a wider audience?

The Movie

The film begins at McKinley Military Academy, a military prep high school with the English Literature class studying Romeo and Juliet. They are reading the play with each of the characters, even the female ones, being read by the male cadets. There are only eight students at the school, as the rest of the students, and all of the faculty, are off on some land navigation exercise. Cadets Lee (Charlie Barnett) and Moreno (Bobby Moreno) are in charge, while the remainder are to maintain their usual routines, of homework, exercises, military drills.

After we hear the students recite Shakespeare in class, the next time we hear them speak, Gus Sanchez (Sean Hudock) asks Sam Singleton (Seth Numrich) what is troubling him, except he quotes the play. For a second, I thought Gus was just getting Sam to practice his Shakespeare, but the characters themselves speak the words as Shakespeare wrote them hundreds of years ago. In this regard, this film is more like Romeo+Juliet than other modern adaptations like O. Sam confesses that he's depressed because he is in love. He refuses to identify the object of his affection, other than to say she will never love him. However, we soon learn that she is a he, Glenn Mangan (Matt Doyle). The relationship isn't doomed because they are from two very different families, but because they are the same gender.

That's pretty much all you need to know about the plot of the film. Romeo and Juliet is such a well known story, all you need to know is how much this film differs from the source material. (Some of the changes I can't discuss without spoiling the movie.) Being about a same-sex couple instead of a boy and a girl from two feuding families does shake up the story a bit. It does work amazingly well in this form. It is still a story about love that has to be kept secret. Some of the dialogue has been emphasized to bring up some innuendos and occasionally this is a little too much. However, Shakespeare has a long history with innuendos. (The "nothing" in Much Ado About Nothing refers to sex.) On the other hand, some of the modern touches are not as welcome. The music was a bit of a distraction. Having some of the characters lip synch into web cams or ending the movie on a pop song hurt more than it helped. The movie is aided by a very strong cast, most of which do not have a lot of movie experience, but are better known for their stage work. It does feel low budget, but that's because it is. It is a very sparse cast and quite limited in locations and set design. Overall, if you are a fan of Shakespeare's original works, this is a good twist on the play. If you are a fan of gay cinema, it is worth checking out as well.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Alan Brown, and the lead actor, Seth Numrich. It is a comprehensive track and the two have good chemistry together. Next up is a nine-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, plus about 8 minutes of additional behind-the-scenes clips. Finally, there are three minutes of deleted scenes.

The Verdict

Private Romeo is an interesting experiment in turning Romeo and Juliet into a gay interest love story. It works better than expected, and while there are some issues with the film, fans of either William Shakespeare or Gay cinema will want to check out the DVD.

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