‘Rosaline” is now streaming on Hulu. | Credit: Hulu

We all know the story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but what if there’s a little more to it? A comedic spin on the tragic tale of those star-crossed lovers, the film Rosaline (screening now on Hulu) focuses on the point of view of a minor character instead: Juliet’s cousin Rosaline, the first object of Romeo’s affection, who basically served as a plot device for Shakespeare. 

For fans of romance (as I am), the premise is great, and somewhat based on the book When You Were Mine by the reliably solid writer Rebecca Searle (Famous in Love, In Five Years, The Dinner List). Kaitlyn Dever stars in the title role as a spunky, modern woman stuck in an era when women were still traded by their fathers for cows and land in exchange for their hands in marriage. A Capulet like her cousin Juliet, Rosaline’s first (secret) suitor is from the rival family, Romeo Montague, played adequately by Heath Ledger lookalike Kyle Allen. He’s fine in the part, but clearly no match for the whip-smart, feisty Rosaline — although her wounded ego prevents her from seeing that light for almost the entirety of the movie. 

Rosaline starts a little slowly, in part because of the unconvincing chemistry between Rosaline and Romeo. The energy picks up once Rosaline begins to banter with her “registered nurse” companion Janet, played by Minnie Driver, a much more worthy sparring partner for Dever. And also notably, her father, played by Bradley Whitford, is a great match for Dever’s energy. 

Once the steamy Sean Teale (so good in Reign and the unfortunately little-seen Little Voice) comes on the scene, as Rosaline’s initially unwelcome suitor Dario, the action quickly picks up, along with the romantic tension that ultimately makes for a very satisfying comedy. 

The Romeo and Juliet romance is still there, with Juliet gamely played by Isabela Merced, but it’s more of a subplot in this version. As directed by Karen Maine (who also directed the excellent Starstruck series on HBO), the attempt to put a modern twist on Shakespeare’s dialogue is a bit uneven, but often entertaining.

Is it a perfect film? Not by any means. But is it worth the watch? Absolutely.

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