Does ‘Rosaline’ Bring Anything New to Shakespeare’s Classic?

On Friday, Oct. 14, Hulu released their movie, “Rosaline,” which follows the titular character trying to steal her boyfriend Romeo (Kyle Allen) back from her cousin, Juliet (Isabela Merced). This twist on Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet” was good but could have gone further.

“Romeo and Juliet” is a play by the famous writer, William Shakespeare. It follows Romeo and Juliet who fall in love despite their families, the Montagues and the Capulets, being at war with each other. Due to the characters’ scheme gone wrong, the star-crossed lovers end up taking their lives.

This Hulu original mocks the main characters from the Shakespearean tragedy and uses Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever) as the catalyst behind the tale’s events. All the performances were great and the film was well-cast; Dever brought a rebellious and comedic charm to the role and the side characters’ performances shined through as well.

Courtesy of Hulu.

“Rosaline” starts with Romeo visiting Rosaline by her balcony at night and reciting poetry for her. The film’s modernity and comedy appear when Rosaline asks him why he’s talking like that. Bringing in that modern humor was a highlight of the movie and it did not just stop there. After hearing the same poetry recited to Juliet on her balcony, a heartbroken Rosaline has a violinist play “All by Myself”; the medieval makeover of the stereotypical breakup song brought some chuckles.

Many literary buffs know that in Shakespeare’s play, Rosaline was a character only mentioned as someone who Romeo loved and was forced to get over. And aside from her, side characters who barely got any spotlight or depth in the original play were built upon in the film. For instance, Paris (Spencer Stevenson) is originally a kinsman who wishes to marry Juliet and a wedding is arranged by her Capulet parents, despite her dismay. In this adaptation, Paris is a gay man who is Rosaline’s friend and was reluctant to propose marriage to Juliet.

However, some characters played big parts in the play yet got the opposite treatment in this movie. And while this was not a major problem, especially since Tybalt (Alistair Toovey) was necessary for the plot, adding characters solely because they were in the play is not great. While the writers likely wanted to stay close to the source material, this move diminished some characters into nothing but cameos. Tybalt was only in scenes to act as the unbearable older cousin to both Juliet and Rosaline; he was seen more in the play, especially the scene where he attacks Mercutio (H. Hunter Hall), which was never added to the movie. Mercutio, Romeo’s loyal friend, only had a couple of scenes and it was only to match events from the play. In the play, we saw a lot more of Mercutio since he was a catalyst for Romeo attending the ball where he met Juliet, as well as Tybalt’s demise. If the writers wanted these characters to be on screen, they should have developed them more as they did with Paris.

Courtesy of Hulu.

The movie also added an original character named Dario (Sean Teale) who is Rosaline’s love interest. The banter between the two was amazing, along with great chemistry. Rosaline and Dario’s romance was a side plot that allowed the former’s main conflict to unfold.

Said conflict, however, did not fulfill the plot. There was no examination of why Rosaline wanted to steal back Romeo or an explanation from the latter on why the relationship ended. Even the character growth especially with the main character was lackluster. The film instead focused on its goal plot, which was Rosaline getting over this failed relationship.

Overall, “Rosaline” is a solid movie to watch if you want a funny medieval rom-com with that modern touch. While the film follows beats similar to many breakup rom-coms, that is not a bad thing. This retelling is still worth a watch and could inspire others to look at those not-so-popular characters from classic tales.

“Rosaline” is available to stream on Hulu.

By Presley DePugh

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