There have been many attempts to modernise Shakespeare over the years, but for every Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet there are numerous forgotten failures. Disney’s new romantic comedy, Rosaline, takes a different approach to a very famous story, and succeeds against the odds.
Told with modern dialogue, this is the story of Romeo and Juliet told through the eyes of Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever). Happily woo-ed by Romeo (Kyle Allen), she misses the ball that leads to him meeting his beloved, Juliet (Isabela Merced). Enraged at being dumped, she manipulates events to keep the two apart, inadvertently creating a Shakespearean tragedy.
Fast-paced and funny, the film is pitched as Bridget Jones by way of A Knight’s Tale (Allen’s Romeo even has the look of a young Heath Ledger). Characters mix Elizabethan melodrama with sarcastic asides, such as Minnie Driver as Rosaline’s lady in waiting (and registered nurse, as she reminds everyone). Certain flourishes, such as reframing Parris (Spencer Stevenson) as gay or the courier (Nico Hiraga) as a useless stoner, give this interpretation character beyond the basic premise.
Dever is also perfect in the lead. Using the same awkward, manic energy that made her so likeable in Booksmart, she flips Shakespeare’s most famous tale on its head and takes things in an interesting direction. She has tremendous chemistry with Sean Teale’s Dario, who matches her sardonic disposition even if the ‘enemies-to-lovers’ trope is a bit predictable. Memorable supporting turns from Driver, as well as Bradley Whitford as Rosaline’s father, only add to the charm.
Coming to a conclusion just as the concept begins to run out of steam, Rosaline has the potential to be a sleeper cult hit with those who like an easy-to-watch romantic comedy that has some seriously clever ideas.
Rosaline is on Disney+ from October 14th