Oh Rosaline, Rosaline, wherefore art thou Rosaline? Hulu’s new rom-com ‘Rosaline,’ released on Friday, Oct. 14, aims to answer that very question; after all, Shakespeare certainly doesn’t bother to tell us.
For those of you who have read or watched a production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” you may or may not recall Rosaline, the lady Romeo was once smitten with. All thoughts of her vanish, however, when Romeo sets sight on Juliet.
‘Rosaline,’ directed by Karen Maine, retells the tragic tale we all know and love from Rosaline’s perspective, loosely based on “When You Were Mine” by Rebecca Serle. Serle’s novel takes place in the modern day, but the Hulu movie sets the scene in Verona, with cast members clad in periodic hairdos, outfits and weapons. ‘Rosaline’ presents itself as a comedy, with characters all using modern verbiage somewhat out of place for the setting.
After spending a romantic night on her balcony, serenaded by Romeo’s sonnets, Rosaline extends him an invitation to a Capulet ball the next evening. Of course, Romeo is a Montague and thus barred from showing up to Capulet events. But Rosaline assures her boyfriend that the masquerade theme will keep their secret relationship from being uncovered.
Rosaline’s plans go downhill, however, when her father forces her to spend the evening with a suitor, causing her to miss the ball. Romeo, now infatuated with Juliet, completely ghosts Rosaline. Heartbroken, Rosaline befriends Juliet, kickstarting her scheme to steal back her true love.
Played by Kaitlyn Dever, Rosaline is witty and unafraid of morally questionable acts. Dever, known for “Booksmart” and “Last Man Standing” is set to hit the big screen this week with her role in “Ticket to Paradise” alongside Julia Roberts and George Clooney. Rosaline’s cousin Juliet, played by “Instant Family” actress Isabella Merced, is just as charming — although her plan to feign death isn’t the smartest of moves.
The star of the film, however, is Rosaline’s unwanted suitor Dario, played by Sean Tale. Dario assists Rosaline across her adventures and is a refreshing contrast from the other suitors sent her way. Interestingly enough, Dario’s character was invented just for the movie; he makes no appearance in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Rosaline” as a whole fits the definition of a rom-com well; the film is funny, but simultaneously leaves something to be desired. Most characters, like leading man Romeo, were depicted as flat-out dumb or in Steve the courier’s case, entirely incompetent. While this was likely done to amp up the comedic aspect, the film could have been much stronger had the characters been fully fleshed out. Rosaline’s nurse, for example, had unfulfilled potential due to her lack of screen time. Some of the fight scenes, too, were left unexplained with Rosaline showing up at inopportune moments.
There were also quite a few jarring continuity errors that made an appearance, bringing “Rosaline” down in the filmmaking department. Even the post-credits scene, while appreciated, was a bit lackluster. The tie-in of Shakespeare’s narration, delivered by Rosaline in the third act, was a clever addition to the story though.
Hulu’s “Rosaline” may be worth the watch for rom-com lovers and English majors, but its invented narrative, while interesting in concept, isn’t particularly special.