‘Rosaline’ Retelling Of Romeo And Juliet Probably Looked Better On Paper

In 1966, Tom Stoppard wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead taking two supporting characters from Hamlet and making them the protagonists. In 1990, he turned it into a movie that had some charm but seemed to waddle through its premise after the halfway mark. Did it play as a parody or was it supposed to be played seriously?

With Gary Oldman and Tim Roth as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern respectively, the movie arrived at just the right time after Mel Gibson had played the Danish Prince in Franco Zefferelli’s more grandiose adaptation premiered. Both movies were in wide release during the winter of 1991 so people could see both. But while I enjoyed Stoppard’s movie, I felt that you really had to be familiar with the play to understand certain scenes as much as why the two titular characters are often confused and even confusing themselves on which one is which.

Rosaline doesn’t really have that problem as it basically uses Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a blueprint but focuses more on the titular character played so well by Kaitlyn Dever, I wish the movie wasn’t so snarky. Rosaline has been secretly dating Romeo Montague (Kyle Allen) when the movie opens but her father, Adrian Capulet (Bradley Whitford), wants her to marry some older suitors but she is always causing them to run off.

She plans to meet Romeo at a masquerade ball as they will both be wearing masks, they can be together. But she finds herself with another suitor, this time a younger man, Dario Penza (Sean Teale), who foolishly tries to impress her with his sailboat on a cruise but they get trapped at sea during a storm. When they return to shore, Rosaline discovers that she’s missed the ball but Romeo has become smitten with her cousin, Juliet (Isabela Merced), who apparently she hasn’t seen in years and puberty turned her into a beautiful young woman.

So, Rosaline becomes your typical romcom parody as she tries to break Romeo and Juliet up so she can regain Romeo’s affection. This includes having Count Paris (Spencer Stevenson) court Juliet which her father, Lord Capulet (Christopher McDonald) agrees to. However, once they learn of Romeo and Juliet’s plans to elope and get married, Lord Capulet and Lord Montague (Nicholas Rowe) declare war.

By now you probably know the rest of the story but Rosaline puts a twist on it with even some meta self-aware commentary on how foolish the whole concept of Juliet taking a drug to fake her death. I won’t say what the ending is but it does offer similarities with the ending of The Graduate. Some of the criticism of the play is that Romeo and Juliet knew so little of each other that their marriage would’ve never really lasted. The Shakespear play was supposed to focus more on the foolishness of war and rivalries between two sets of people.

Dever is a delight to see, but I wish director Karen Maine and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber didn’t make it too boring at times. Whereas Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could have their own story with the players and transition into scenes they were in the play, this wants to have same appeal that The Lion King 1 1/2 has. There’s too much modern jokes and the way the characters speak is too modern while they make fun of others who speak in iambic pentameter.

Some things work better as skits or on paper. And Rosaline is based on a young adult novel When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle. Neustadter and Weber also wrote (500) Days of Summer, which was a parody of romcoms and The Fault in Our Stars which wasn’t but felt like it should be. The movie is worth seeing for the performances of Dever, who is probably one of the best underrated actresses working today, as well as Whitford and an amusing performance by Minnie Driver as Nurse Janet.

Yet sometimes, not all ancillary characters in popular works need to have their own stories. This was released through 20th Century Studios which is owned by Disney which is trying to make every Marvel character into its own movie or TV show. I guess it could be worse. We could have MacBeth told from the point of view of the drunken porter.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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