Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Claire Danes And Leonardo Dicaprio In 'romeo + Juliet'

Volunteer of the Month Nicole Nguyen on Romeo + Juliet

Have this article read to you, listen to it like a podcast

Nicole Nguyen Votm Pic

Winter break is over, and The Frida is back with a bang to ring in the New Year! Opening this Friday is A24’s The Iron Claw, beginning its two week-run this Friday. Next week, we herald the Return of Michael Mannuary with the director’s crime epic Heat. Then coming towards the end of the month are Peter Bogdanovich’s 1972 comedy What’s Up, Doc?, Jonathan Glazer’s new historical drama The Zone of Interest, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest fantastical feature Poor Things. Before we get there, why not revisit one of the most celebrated romances of the 90s, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, this week?

In Luhrmann’s contemporary take on William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, the Montagues and Capulets have moved their ongoing feud to the sweltering suburb of Verona Beach, where Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) fall in love and secretly wed. Though the film is visually modern, the bard’s dialogue remains. Acclaimed for its stylized spin on Shakespeare’s beloved story, the film was also a smash hit among audiences, opening at number one at the US box office and grossing a whopping $147 million against a budget of only $14.5 million. It also helped launch the careers of Luhrmann and DiCaprio, with the former winning the Alfred Bauer Prize and the latter winning the Silver Bear for Best Actor award at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival.

Playing for the first time at The Frida, this opportunity to see the film on the big screen was made possible by Nicole Nguyen, one of our January Volunteers of the Month! One of my Assistant Editors on the writing team (as well as the first writing team member to get Volunteer of the Month), I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Nicole even before the pandemic. With her scrubbing blog posts for typos and errors, communicating expectations and requirements to Bloggers, and making helpful suggestions and observations to me, it’s no exaggeration to say that she’s an invaluable asset to the team. Befitting her role her at The Frida, I decided to do something different and let her answer my interview questions in written form. As I expected, I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of her answers, and find myself hoping to catch Romeo + Juliet this week!

How did you find out about The Frida Cinema?

I’d heard The Frida mentioned during my time in undergrad at Chapman. But it wasn’t until I was actively searching around Orange County for places to either work at or volunteer for that my eye was really caught. And lo and behold!

What made you want to volunteer here?

I was coming up toward finishing my bachelor’s degrees and wanted a more permanent and tangible tether to a community that had a similar appreciation for cinema. I started as an in-house volunteer in 2019, but after the pandemic broke out, I started on the writing team.

Tell us a little bit about Romeo + Juliet.

I’m a Shakespeare enjoyer, so there’s so much I could say about it. But in the interest of space, suffice it to say that I think Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation is one of the most engaging and accessible iterations of Shakespeare we have. No shade to Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 Romeo and Juliet, which gorgeously renders the early modern/Renaissance setting that’s hard to envision from just reading the play. (Not to mention Olivia Hussey’s performance as Juliet.) But Luhrmann’s modern setting and the level of the spectacle he injects into the story does so much in the way of erasing that temporal distance. And it makes the story so much more immediate – and so much more tragic.

Also, Mercutio is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters ever, and I’ve long been enamored of Harold Perrineau’s performance.

What were your other choices for Volunteer Pick of the Month?

One of them was Carnival of Souls, a psychological horror film directed by Herk Harvey. It has such an oppressively foreboding atmosphere and is so reminiscent of Jean Cocteau’s work that I thought it would be very interesting to see it on the big screen.

And the other was Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s one of my favorite films because it strikes the balance I love to see when it comes to fairy tale or fantastical stories: equal parts wonderful and terrifying.

What is your favorite Frida memory?

I had a lot of fun at the Pride and Prejudice screening we had in partnership with Arvida Books in October. That particular adaptation is one of my comfort movies, but I really loved watching it in a theater and hearing everybody else’s reactions to it. And I introduced one of my friends to the Frida for the first time!

If you could program any movie here, what would you pick?

I’m going to cheat a little bit. Do you remember in the 2000s, when there was a whole slew of adaptations of classic literature into teen movies? I think it would be really fun to program a whole series of those movies – like She’s All That, Clueless, She’s the Man, John Tucker Must Die, 10 Things I Hate About You.

Romeo + Juliet screens starting Tuesday, January 2nd.
Tuesday, Jan 2 – 5:15pm, 7:45pm
Wednesday, Jan 3 – 5:15pm
Thursday, Jan 4 – 5:15pm
Friday, Jan 5 – 10:15pm


More to explore