REVIEW: ‘Rosaline’ Strikes A Near Perfect Balance

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Rosaline - But Why Tho

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet was formative for my love of film and my love of the Bard. It was heavily stylized, had a killer soundtrack, knew exactly how to pull the past into the present, and helped me memorize pretty much every one of Mercutio’s lines. And while I’m sure there are bound to be many comparisons with the 1995 cult classic, Hulu Original Rosaline does something wonderfully different. It pulls the present back and maps onto the past in a smart way that transforms the tragedy of errors into something new.

Rosaline, directed by Karen Maine and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is adapted from the novel of the same name by Rebecca Serle. This film is a fresh and comedic twist on Shakespeare’s classic, told from the perspective of Juliet’s cousin Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), who also happens to be Romeo’s recent love interest. Heartbroken when Romeo (Kyle Allen) meets Juliet (Isabela Merced) and begins to pursue her, Rosaline schemes to foil the famous romance and win back her guy.

Rosaline isn’t a retelling of Romeo & Juliet. Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern did for Hamlet, this film looks at a character on the side, pulls her to the front, and makes sure you remember her. Eccentric and metatextual, Rosaline manages to pull off mixing modernity with 14th Century Verona and nothing feels forced, heavy-handed, or out of place. Here, William Shakespeare’s work is a playground, and Rosaline is someone discovering that sometimes climbing up the slide is the most fun part.

Interestingly enough, the film doesn’t abandon Shakespeare’s prose entirely. Instead, we hear modern songs and modern speech with sections of the original play used expertly for comedic or narrative purposes. In fact, the best part about this Hulu Original is that it takes the very premise of one of the most well-known romances in existence and holds it up as the lofty idea that it is. Rosaline, our heroine, comments on all the plotholes, all the weird moments of timing, and of course the asinine plan the star-crossed lovers come up with. Rosaline is us. She’s annoyed with but still appreciates Romeo and Juliet’s romance.

Another reason for the film’s successful take on this story is that it isn’t inherently dependent on Romeo and Juliet. Those two are there, and Romeo is highlighted as the f-boy we all see him as once we have some distance between us and high school English. However, this isn’t their story.

Rosaline succeeds because it never forgets the character the title is based on. Not once does she fade to the background, and in fact, she is centered so wonderfully that you really just care about her. Rosaline’s life, her eccentricities, her want to push past expectations of betrothal, and ultimately her “will they won’t they” romance with Daro moves this film past any “take” on the Bard. This distance allows the film to thrive on its own wit while Kaitlyn Dever‘s performance as our titular character keeps you engaged from start to finish.

Rosaline isn’t the only film injecting modernity into a known piece of classic literature this year, but it is the best. This film manages to capture all of the annoyances that build when you look past Romeo & Juliet‘s shiny exterior about love while still holding reverence for the Bard’s work at the same. It finds humor in the gaps and is well worth your time.

Rosaline is streaming now, exclusively on Hulu.


Rosaline
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Rosaline isn’t the only film injecting modernity into a known piece of classic literature this year, but it is the best. This film manages to capture all of the annoyances that build when you look past Romeo & Juliet‘s shiny exterior about love while still holding reverence for the Bard’s work at the same. It finds humor in the gaps and is well worth your time.

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