The transition from puberty to adulthood is one filled with many tumultuous things. So many changes just occurred in a teenager’s body, both physically and emotionally, that sometimes they don’t make the best decisions. They’re trying to figure out who they are as independent members of society, while still being viewed as inexperienced children. As such, even if they have matured in some aspects of their lives, many other aspects remain raw and unhinged. Romance just happens to be one of those aspects. While I’m sure many relationships have started with that “high school sweetheart”, it seems that more and more often they don’t last past college or (if they do get married) eventually end in divorce. This week’s two films look at the love lives of some teenagers and how they dealt with learning the real world is a cruel place.
Romeo and Juliet
Length: 138 minutes / 2.3 hours
I feel that with many adaptations of this classic play, the actors playing the titular roles are often too old to truly capture the kinds of emotions that teenagers would be feeling at the time. Take the 1936 film adaptation, for instance: while it was nominated for Best Picture, the actor who played Romeo was forty-three, which is difficult to make look like fifteen by any stretch of the imagination. This is why the 1968 adaptation (also a Best Picture nominee) is considered one of the best created to date. Not only were the settings very close to the 14th Century Italy which Verona sat in, but the actors playing the lead roles were themselves teenagers, thus adding to the realism of the transfer.
Teenagers are often rebellious, blatantly going against the wishes of their parents in order to figure out how they fit in society. Well, when your parents are fighting another family, and you’ve just found a soul-mate who happens to be from said other family, you’re definitely going to go against your family’s wishes in order to be with them. Such is the case of Romeo and Juliet, two teenagers who met and immediately fell in love. They stole away and eloped with the help of Friar Laurence and Juliet’s nursemaid, but now that they’ve joined these warring families together in holy matrimony, things go from bad to worse. After Romeo is banished for killing Juliet’s cousin, she’s arranged to be married to a wealthy Count. As a result, she fakes her death, at which point Romeo doesn’t fake his death, followed by her eventual suicide.
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours
If you thought that the conflict between two feuding families was bad, it pales in comparison to the challenge of love in high school. There’s something about the academic rigor involved with this stage of life that just ends up accentuating any emotions and feelings that rush to the surface, especially for teenage boys who feel it is their identity as young men to maintain a tough and calloused persona in order to hold their own in the cutthroat society of high school. Add into the mix the possibility of crushes on some of the younger teachers and you’ve set yourself up for disaster. Of course, what’s more unfortunate is that sometimes grown men haven’t been able to mature past this emotional state and still act like a teenager, even if they’re a successful businessman who is unhappy with their life.
When you’re a teenager, you feel like you can take on the world. Well, 15-year old Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) certainly has. He is involved absolutely every extra-curricular activity at Rushmore Academy. Of course, if he was any good at the regular-curricular activities, he wouldn’t be in trouble with the principal, who has threatened to kick him out of Rushmore because of the stipulations of Max’s scholarship. But does Max listen? No, instead he becomes infatuated with Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams), a 1st Grade teacher at Rushmore. To add insult to injury, his new personal hero, Herman Blume (Bill Murray), an unhappy businessman and Rushmore alum, starts having an affair with Ms. Cross. Max quickly learns that while having a very positive attitude toward life is important, the world is more complicated and adult than it may seem.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 teenage tragedies