You know the story: two households, both alike in dignity. A long-standing blood feud, a pair of star-crossed lovers, and a tragic, untimely demise. Romeo and Juliet remains to this day one of William Shakespeare’s most well-known plays. But maybe it’s about time for some new insight into this love story…
And no one puts things into perspective quite like a jilted ex.
Enter Rosaline, stage left.
This new rom-com from 20th Century takes a unique stab at the classic Romeo and Juliet story, exploring what it was like to be Rosaline – Romeo’s love before Juliet – as the pair’s romance unfolded. But as Rosaline schemes to win back her Romeo, she may find herself falling for someone else…
Blending classic Shakespeare with modernity
There’s no shortage of Shakespearean film adaptations out there. And there’s as many ways to bring Shakespeare to modern audiences as there are adaptations. Some preserve the Bard’s words, but update the setting, like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Others take inspiration from Shakespeare’s characters and story beats, but otherwise play as modern stories (10 Things I Hate About You).
Rosaline takes its own approach to blending classic Shakespeare with modernity. The settings and costuming transport you back to a century past, while the modern dialogue and music ground you in the present. (Mostly modern dialogue, I should say. There’s a twinge of Shakespeare here – especially when Romeo’s waxing poetic.)
The aesthetic blend works, giving the film a unique tone and feel. Plus, director Karen Maine does a great job using the clashing time periods to comedic effect.
Just a good, solid rom-com
Honestly, Rosaline is just a good, solid rom-com – the kind that feels like a movie we don’t see a lot of anymore. Kaitlyn Dever has great comedic timing as Rosaline, and the ability to balance deadpan humor, wit, and a bit of mischief all rolled into one. Her rivalry-turned-romance with Dario (Sean Teale) feels compelling and believable; he supports her, but also calls her out when she’s acting too single-minded or irrational. Plus, the enemies-to-lovers trope is another classic tenet of Shakespeare stories, so even as the film moves away from Romeo and Juliet as the central romance, it keeps that Shakespearean love story feel.
Overall, the cast does an excellent job with this story. Isabela Merced’s Juliet is sweet and earnest but naive; Kyle Allen’s Romeo feels both like Shakespeare’s hero and like every time someone has ever sarcastically called a guy “Romeo” for an over-the-top display of affection. (Also, is it just the long hair/Shakespeare combo that’s giving me Heath Ledger vibes?) Arguably Minnie Driver’s Nurse has one real recurring bit throughout the entire film. But you know what? Her delivery makes it funny every single time. I’d watch another whole movie retelling this story from Nurse Janet’s perspective. Bonus shoutout to Steve the Courier (Nico Hiraga), who was also just unreasonably funny whenever he popped up.
Basically, I laughed throughout the movie, and felt invested in the romance. What more could you ask for in a romantic comedy?
Rosaline understands the best and worst of Romeo and Juliet
I think the reason Rosaline works so well – beyond good jokes and the cast to carry them – is that it understands what people love and hate about its source material. Yes, Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s classics, and probably one of the most well-known love stories of all time. And yes, there’s a certain romance to loving someone despite your family’s wishes, and loving them so much you can’t bear to live without them.
But it’s also a little bit ridiculous how it all plays out, right?
Stripped of its romantic grandeur, Romeo and Juliet are kids who barely know each other and enact a convoluted, dangerous plan to be together that ends up blowing up in their faces. Most rational people would agree things didn’t need to play out the way they did.
That’s what makes Rosaline work, though. It simultaneously points out the ridiculousness of Romeo and Juliet’s situation, while not disparaging love as a concept. It’s the perfect movie for anyone who loves to make fun of Romeo and Juliet just as much as they also love a love story.
Rosaline premieres on Hulu October 14.