A breezy and comical take on Shakespeare’s tale.
“Rosaline” is a witty and strong-willed made-for-Hulu romcom version of William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo & Juliet,” only it’s told from the perspective of Juliet’s sassy and awkward cousin, played delightfully by Kaitlyn Dever. The plot feels like something out of “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” but really it’s inspired by Rebecca Serle’s novel “When You Were Mine,” as Rosaline falls for Romeo (Kyle Allen), who falls for Juliet (Isabela Merced), and now, she needs to ruin their relationship. But it doesn’t work for two reasons.
Reason 1: R&J are so madly and deeply in love as the poet intended them to be, despite their families’ feud-the Montagues vs. the Capulets. Why are they fighting? what is their deal? And how did it begin? Nobody knows. Why are we still fighting today? Nobody knows. I guess not everyone can get along.
Reason 2: Rosaline ends up falling for her visiting suitor Dario (Sean Teale), the one her father Friar Laurence-renamed here Adrian (Bradley Whitford)-arranged. He looks rich, because of his dashing appearing, but he’s really poor and less cocky. She’s the one who resents him, until she spends more time with him.
It’s very rare that a “Romeo & Juliet” movie would get the happy ending people are used to. Back in 2011, there was an animated Elton John-themed movie called “Gnomeo & Juliet,” which used the red gnomes for the Capulets and the blue gnomes for the Montagues. I thought that film was delightful in its own colorful and eccentric spirit, and I think this one is charming and sassy on another spirit.
The kind of spirit I’m regarding focuses on womanhood. Rosaline has the guts to speak at the table, when Juliet’s father Lord Capulet (Christopher McDonald) is shocked at her behavior. He says to Friar Laurence or Adrian (or whatever the movie wants to call him): “You let your daughter speak at the dinner table,” and Rosaline responds: “I’m sorry. I thought this was my house.”
This is set in the period with a modern theme. The characters are able to act like they’re in a modern comedy, they’re able to speak without the Shakespearean dialogue, and they’re able to dance to pop music. It’s almost like “A Knight’s Tale” when it uses rock music or last year’s “Cinderella,” when it has its independent heroine.
Women can have thoughts of their own, whether they’re in the past, present, or future, and they can speak for themselves and have the courage to do so. This is coming from a man who respects women, and knows they’re stronger than what old fairytales and male chauvinist pigs tell them.
Does every joke work? No. Is it a landmark romcom? No? But is it smart, funny, and entertaining? Yes.
Dever uses the kind of deadpan attitude as demonstrated in “Booksmart,” and in “Rosaline,” she’s able to represent her mannerisms into Juliet’s cousin. Teale also provides some charming work with a Rupert Everett appeal. Allen and Merced are good choices as R&J. Minnie Driver uses the right kind of attitude as Rosaline’s nurse and companion. And both Whitford and McDonald have some breezy attitudes as the two main fathers.
About this movie using modern dialogue. I mean no disrespect, but not everyone can understand the Shakespearean language. We try our best, and we learn to adapt. Besides this wouldn’t be the first “Romeo & Juliet” movie to do so, and I’m not sure anyone cares right now. They were pretty agitated by the 2013 version with Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth, when it used a few of Shakespeare’s verses. I thought it was a crappy movie, because of how lifeless it was in comparison with the story, but I felt the English dialogue was a bit helpful. Again, no disrespect. And I’m sorry if you felt disrespected.
Streaming on Hulu This Friday