Rosaline Review

Last Updated on October 20, 2022

Plot: “Rosaline” is a fresh and comedic twist on Shakespeare’s classic love story “Romeo & Juliet,” told from the perspective of Juliet’s cousin Rosaline, who also happens to be Romeo’s recent love interest. Heartbroken when Romeo meets Juliet and begins to pursue her, Rosaline schemes to foil the famous romance and win back her guy. 

Review: Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s classic romance, has been adapted so many times that recent years have seen animated versions (Gnomeo & Juliet), zombie versions (Warm Bodies), musical versions (Camp Rock 2), and cheerleading versions (Bring It On: In It to Win it) in addition to traditional takes (Julian Fellowes’ 2013 version). While this play remains required reading for high schoolers around the world, the iambic pentameter doesn’t prevent teens from relating to the hormonal urges of the titular Capulet and Montagues who find themselves as star-crossed lovers. Still, another retelling is here to take another perspective and works surprisingly well. Rosaline, starring Kaitlyn Dever, is a fun and anachronistic spin on Shakespeare that does away with antiquated language and delivers a fun and relatable romantic comedy with a Generation Z twist.

For those familiar with Romeo & Juliet, you may not remember Rosaline. Mentioned early in the play as the woman with whom Romeo was in love, she doesn’t really factor into the play as more than the reason for Romeo to meet Juliet. Romeo attends a masquerade ball and the rest is history, but Rosaline’s legacy has never been more than existing as a name. Now, Kaitlyn Dever portrays Rosaline as a headstrong young woman who is scorned by Romeo in favor of her cousin and takes it upon herself to get revenge on the boy who broke her heart. Director Karen Maine (Yes, God, Yes) and screenwriters Scott Neustadter ad Michael H. Weber adapt Rebecca Serle’s more serious novel When You Were Mine into a comedy that mines the corners of Shakespeare’s play to provide a much different angle on the story. Early in the film, we are given an explanation as to why Rosaline did not attend the masquerade where she was supposed to rendezvous with Romeo and this allows for the introduction of Dario (Sean Teale). We also see iconic moments from the play from Rosaline’s perspective like the balcony scene and more offer hilarious alternate looks at the story.

It would be easy to discount Rosaline as a spoof or a joke, but luckily it works very well and never took me out of the ancient Verona setting. While some of the locations look good, others are clearly green-screen, but that does not detract from what does work in the story. Like AppleTV+ series Dickinson which showcased Hailee Steinfeld as a modernized version of Emily Dickinson, the humor inherent in Rosaline comes from the performances of the actors, especially Kaitlyn Dever, Dever has been a breakout since her early roles on Justified through recent projects like Dopesick and Booksmart. Here, she does a great job as the woman who doesn’t want to be married off or treated as property and learns the hard way what love really feels like. This brings her into confrontations with her father (Bradley Whitford), her uncle (Christopher McDonald), and her suitor, Dario. There are also solid turns from Minnie Driver as Rosaline’s Nurse as well as charming performances from Isabelle Merced and Kyle Allen as Romeo and Juliet. The best is a small role from Nico Haraga as Steve the Courier.

The relationship between Rosaline and Dario fills in many of the blank moments from Shakespeare’s original story and offers a take on a much different play, The Taming of the Shrew. While Rosaline starts out wanting to marry for love and to be an independent woman in an era where such a thing was unheard of, the chemistry between her and Dario offers two headstrong characters an equal opponent to face off with. Dever and Teale are both attractive and deliver their dialogue with snappy precision which makes their romantic relationship feel far more realistic than the dreamy courtship of the more famous lovers in the story. While the story starts off feeling like it is going to head in one direction full of cliche and expected turns, the story ends up feeling far less like a stunt and embraces the material. Had this story kept the more serious approach of the novel it is based on, it would have felt like it was missing something by not keeping the language in line with the era of the story. But, the modernized personality of Rosaline feels far more suited and even makes jokes about Romeo talking in verse very funny.

Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber work wonders with this story. Responsible for the instant classic 500 Days of Summer, Neustadter and Weber effectively channel the mind of a teenager, something they have also done with films like The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. While those films were much more angsty and stereotypically YA in nature, Rosaline never feels like a chore to watch. It also helps that the story is tangentially connected to the original play but never strays too far from it. Yes, the characters are all here ranging from Mercutio and Tybalt and more, but no one is the version we know from high school English class. It also helps that Rosaline may have the best soundtrack for a Shakespeare adaptation since Baz Luhrmann’s equally unique take on this play. Altogether, director Karen Maine manages to make a film that feels edgy and unique while also very traditional.

Rosaline is the latest in a long line of films that upend the conventions of traditional Shakespeare stories and it succeeds because it turns a tragedy into a comedy. With color-blind casting and a sense of humor that goes beyond parody or satire, Rosaline is another showcase for Kaitlyn Dever as the anti-romantic lead that is still every bit as worthy of being a romantic lead as anyone else. Rosaline is fun, funny, and above all original, and makes a case for telling the lost stories of characters that never got their due. Rosaline is bound to be used in high schools across the country and should help open up Shakespeare to a new generation of readers. At the very least, it is a romantic comedy that succeeds in being both very funny and very romantic.

Rosaline is available to watch on the Hulu streaming service.





About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.