“Rosaline” promotes a somewhat elusive “Romeo and Juliet” character, reaching the twin markets of A) rom-com lovers and B) fans of mainstream English revivals, and then builds a very clever, fast-paced movie around it. As a result, it’s a welcome showcase for Kaitlyn Dever to thrive in the Hulu Village, rather than the province of theaters.
For those a little rusty on their Shakespeare, Romeo longed for Juliet’s cousin before he met this star-crossed lover and hit the ground running. Here, we find a disarmingly modern Rosaline (Dever) with Romeo (Kyle Allen) as her frustrated father (Bradley Whitford) tries to arrange a wedding for her, and constantly confronts her in what looks like another new era. movie, “Catherine Called Birdy” on Amazon.
After a blind date with some old men and losers, Rosaline meets a charming character in Dario (Sean Teale), but in the classic rom-com she immediately dislikes him, mostly because he doesn’t seem to be the guy she wants.
When their reunion prevents him from attending a party, the headstrong Romeo falls in love with the visiting Juliet (Isabela Merced). Wounded, Rosaline begins to figure out how she might win over her wide-eyed, hurt cousin as she finds herself helpful, encouraging him to “play the field” and “sample life’s buffet.”
Directed by Karen Maine, the screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“500 Days of Summer”) takes Rosaline’s contemporary 2013 novel by Rebecca Serle and sets it in Shakespeare’s time. Beyond the shift to Rosaline’s point of view, which may explain why the film feels so contemporary, the use of many popular songs to set the mood and lighthearted tone, be it “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” or “I Love.” That.”
Toying with Shakespeare in general and “Romeo and Juliet” in particular is a well-used tactic today, including the short-lived ABC series “Still Star-Crossed.” However, the real foundation lies in casting Dever (who has been good in many things, including “Booksmart,” “Dopesick” and “Unbelievable”) as a thoroughly modern protagonist and Teale’s Dario as a believable person. he asked her to reconsider that love of Romeo.
There are other elegant touches worked into the film (a nod to The Graduate, for example), as well as Minnie Driver’s usually thankless role as the Nurse (now a registered nurse). Also, the pace moves briskly in a way that, thankfully, doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Hulu has become a haven for mid-range movies that parent Disney doesn’t really know how to handle, including a pair of female-led action vehicles, “The Princess” and “Prey,” the latter of which replaces the latter installment. “Predator” franchise.
Granted, the direct route seems to limit this mode’s fare options and rewards; however, given the possibilities that something like “Rosaline” has before it, it’s better to see their light come out of the TV there than never.
“Rosaline” premieres October 14 on Hulu in the US, Star+ in Latin America and Disney+ in other territories.