I had the chance to watch the original Hulu movie Rosaline ahead of its release and I’m here to share my thoughts on it and if it’s worth checking out.
The idea of Rosaline certainly caught my attention when I found out about it. I can still remember being astounded to learn in my high school English class that Romeo had loved someone before Juliet. The idea of seeing the infamous love story play out from the point of view of Romeo’s ex-girlfriend, therefore, had the potential to be amusing at the very least.
Directed By: Karen Maine
Written By: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Isabela Merced, Kyle Allen, Bradley Whitfor, Minnie Driver
Release Date: October 14, 2022 exclusively on Hulu
As promising as this story idea is, though, it isn’t executed smoothly, or perhaps I should say not consistently. The first act of Rosaline is incredibly weak, with so many cringey dialogue moments that I nearly gave up on the film altogether. It’s only when the love story of Romeo and Juliet begins that the movie finally became interesting to watch. What Shakespeare wrote as a tragedy is turned into a comedy well before the credits roll.
Rosaline is a fascinating mashup of Shakespeare and the modern world. Everyone is dressed correctly for the period the story is traditionally set in, but most of the dialogue is completely modern (with one hilarious ongoing exception). There’s also the atmosphere set by the music, which can be filled with strings one moment and a thumping bass the next (the masquerade ball is a prime example).
All of this comes together to let you know that this is not your traditional Shakespeare story. Seriously though, having Rosaline and Juliet act like modern teenage girls really helps with explaining why the romance part of the story plays out as it does. I think it’s easy to forget how young Juliet and Rosaline actually are.
Rosaline herself—once we get past the cringiness of the first act—is a fascinating character. She’s essentially a modern woman living in the Renaissance world with a mostly modern idea of how she should be able to get on in the world. This makes her the perfect character to provide a running commentary on everything wrong with Romeo and Juliet’s love story.
This was actually my favorite part of the film. As the plot unfolds, Rosaline brings up each and every last objection and criticism real-life people have ever made about the “true love” that Romeo and Juliet claim to experience. The fact the star-crossed lovers proceed in spite of the flaws being pointed out makes the story that much funnier.
I do have one overriding criticism and that’s how Romeo was portrayed by Kyle Allen. Maybe I misinterpreted certain scenes or I’ve been missing the point all these years but Romeo comes across as incredibly…stupid for most of the film. Like, if Rosaline and Juliet are modern teenage girls, then Romeo is the equivalent of a stereotypical high school jock; very handsome but not very bright. I know Romeo makes some rash decisions in the original story, but the way he’s presented in the film it made it very difficult to take him seriously as a character. What worked with other characters felt like it was overdone with Romeo.
Thankfully, as I mentioned before, the story greatly improves once Romeo meets Juliet and the play we’re all familiar with gets going, only with Rosaline openly involved. The bulk of the humor comes from Rosaline attempting, repeatedly, to derail the story with hilarious consequences. Consequently, Rosaline’s persistent tampering means that the story eventually changes in some significant ways, though not to the detriment of the story. Combine this with Rosaline’s own love story playing out in parallel to Romeo and Juliet’s and you have what is ultimately a satisfying story.
While the first part of Rosaline is weak and a bit of a mess, the rest of the film more than makes up for it with a twist on Romeo and Juliet that leaves you eager to see exactly how the story ends.