'Rosaline' review: Charming romantic comedy hilariously lampoons 'Romeo and Juliet'
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios/Hulu
A fresh and unique romantic comedy inspired by William Shakespeares’ “Romeo and Juliet,” Karen Maine’s “Rosaline” flips the script by following Romeo’s ex-girlfriend in a self-aware, meta commentary on everything you love and hate about the playwright's most notorious work. There’s no shortage of Shakesperean film adaptations, especially ones targeted towards teenagers, but “Rosaline,” which benefits from the comedic chops and presences of the incredible Kaitlyn Dever, hits several sweet spots between the charm of “10 Things I Hate About You” and the creative liberties of Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet.”
“Rosaline” isn’t spoken in iambic pentameter and when characters start speaking in that verse, others are quick to ask: “Why are you talking like that?” Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (who adapted the novel “When You Were Mine” by Rebecca Serle) create a visceral world, complete with period appropriate costumes and scenery, that’s honest to the vision of “Romeo and Juliet,” but quickly lets audiences know this is more attuned with modern day sensibilities. This is exemplified by Rosaline’s disdain for gender roles, like arranged marriages and how she’s seen as a second class citizen. “You let your daughter speak at the table?” A man quips at one point.
She believes to have found her soulmate in the charismatic Romeo (Kyle Allen) who must secretly climb up to her window and recite poetry before disappearing into the night. The two have major aspirations of running away from their politically charged families, the Montagues and Captulets, and living a life worthy of ambition. That is until Romeo locks eyes with Rosaline’s cousin, Juliet (Isabela Merced - rollicking) and, well, we all know the rest of their story of woe. Or maybe you don’t.
“Rosaline” quickly becomes a comedy of wits as the titular character tries concocting several schemes, complete with her pal Paris (Spencer Stevenson) who is like the cliché gay best friend in all revenge teenage romantic comedies, to break the starcrossed lovers up and win back her man. It’s a mostly predictable affair and features uninspired love triangles, but “Rosaline” breaks conventions on the ability of its ensemble. None more so than Dever who anchors the picture, but Merced scores big laughs alongside Bradley Whitford, playing Rosaline’s over obsessive father, and Christopher McDonald as Romeo’s stern and traditional dad.
Elsewhere, Minnie Driver gets some jokes about being a “registered nurse” and the frat boy-ish persona Allen radiates as pretty boy Romeo feels right for this type of movie. “Rosaline” does take some stances on how “Romeo and Juliet” would look if things ended differently, which offers its own dose of hilarious hijinks (and the best use of the PG13’s singular F-bomb in recent memory), but if you’re fan of the bard and any of the aforementioned films, this should be a must-see, especially for Dever who continues to be one of the sharpest actresses working today.
ROSALINE debuts on Hulu Friday, October 14th.