Playing with the fabric and structure of William Shakespeare’s texts is all the modern range has left. No good rehashing what we already know, what the generations before took great pleasure in performing to death. Even now the likes of Andrew Scott and David Tennant keep alive the thespian way, the pursuit of modernising the texts of the old fella himself. Rosaline is doing much the same but for the big screen. As Lady Macbeth did, as 10 Things I Hate About You did. My Own Private Idaho was the best of the bunch. But even straight-shooting adaptations of Shakespeare live on, with The Tragedy of Macbeth and Macbeth lingering in the mind. Rosaline probably won’t remain in the brain for too long but at least Karen Maine directs with the confidence to change the fundamentals.
Still, Kaitlyn Dever makes for a solid draw, her role as the jilted Rosaline Capulet a nice twist and a different perspective to Romeo and Juliet. Kyle Allen, the man who crops up in everything all of a sudden, and Isabela Merced, are a decent pairing for the duo. There is a lighter flourish lingering throughout Rosaline in its early moments, one which does not last long as it turns to pratfalls and physical humour immediately. But for those brief moments and a few scenes after, scattered throughout this running time, there are knowing nods to the mindlessness of it all. Strong semblances of regal iconography and a few faces which you can’t quite place but recognise from somewhere, Rosaline has it all. By all, it has the two staples of the lower rung of independent cinema flowing through it.
As harmless and predictable as Rosaline is, it does have fun with its moments of madness and the tongue-in-cheek spin it offers to a classic text. Ditching the lingo and the love transferred from text to screen time and time again, Rosaline depends thoroughly on Dever and her efforts as a leading star. A tremendous turn and certainly better than their efforts on Dear Evan Hansen, although most parts of life, good and bad, are better than that. Sometimes losing your hearing for a month and a half is preferable to seeing Ben Platt sing. It happens to the best of us. Rosaline is far from the best of them, a portrayal which brings about the love lost suddenly to the main character syndrome which comes through other, more important people. Sometimes it is nice to drift into the background.
Rosaline certainly has time for such background and when it offers up the neat bits and pieces which showcase the warring families, the film comes to life. Alistair Toovey is placed ever-so-nicely as a bit-part player who may as well have been lifted from the set of Plebs and dropped into this one. Christopher McDonald makes for a nice appearance too but the bulk of the heavy-lifting, the enjoyable brushes with the text, original and adapted, is Dever. Her performance here is exceptional and the Juliet interjection is a well-paced and rewarding watch, if a bit uneven in places where it matters most, cutting and running between its ensemble growth.