Movie Review: “Rosaline” Gives “Romeo and Juliet” the Rom-Com Treatment with Style

Fair Verona. Has there ever been a better setting for heartbreak? The Bard of Avon made the tale of two star-crossed lovers immortal, but he barely mentioned a certain someone in Romeo and Juliet. Not to worry, 20th Century Studios is here to right this egregious wrong with Rosaline, the tale of the girl Romeo was looking for when he met Juliet. What ever happened to her? Wonder no longer.

(20th Century Studios)

(20th Century Studios)

Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), a Capulet and cousin of Juliet (Isabela Merced), has been secretly swept off her feet by Romeo (Kyle Allen), a Montague with a flair for poetry. More of a realist, Rosaline isn’t quick to respond when Romeo professes his love for her, leading to a sense of urgency when she could reunite with him at a masquerade ball. But when her father (Bradley Whitford) sets his presumably eligible daughter up on a date with Dario (Sean Teale), she misses the ball where her beau meets and falls in love with her cousin. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Romeo ghosts Rosaline while she is forced to entertain her visiting cousin, who has unknowingly stolen her love.

Shakespeare’s great tragedy is transformed into a romantic comedy in Rosaline. The period setting married with contemporary humor makes the film tonally reminiscent of The Princess Bride, feeling like a contemporary fairytale. Filmed in Tuscany and Italy’s Upper Lazio region, the film’s aesthetic more often than not strives for period realism. Contemporizations come through dialogue, characterizations, and music, with a soundtrack that includes lute versions of Celine Dion’s “All By Myself,” Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine,” and Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.”

The script has been reverse-engineered from Rebecca Searle’s 2013 young adult novel When You Were Mine, which was inspired by Romeo and Juliet but set in the present. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer, The Fault in Our Stars) have restaged all of the action within Shakespeare’s story and restored character names while retaining some of the more modern romcom tropes, such as Paris becoming Rosaline’s gay best friend, proposing marriage to Juliet to free Romeo up again (hilariously played by Spencer Stevenson). Rosaline’s nurse (Minnie Driver) also becomes a secret agent of sorts as she also happens to be Juliet’s nurse while she stays with Rosaline.

(20th Century Studios)

(20th Century Studios)

Director Karen Maine manages to take all of the recycled ingredients that make up Rosaline and creates something all at once familiar and fresh. Shakespeare purists may balk at the liberties taken with the source material, but the film stays true to the comedy genre and its structural origins. Tragedies end in death, but comedies end in celebration. And that’s what Rosaline feels like, a celebration of love and the fact that there’s someone out there for everyone.

I give Rosaline 5 out of 5 Celine Dion ballads rearranged for a lyre.

Rosaline premieres Friday, October 14th on Hulu.

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).