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‘…Rosaline passes muster as an amusing update on the classic story that at least questions the assumptions that we casually make about the values within Shakespeare’s plays…’

‘You’re a woman, you’re not supposed to talk about what you want…’; even if the screenplay has been written by a couple of guys, Rosaline is a super-woke feminist retelling of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet refurbished for the eager eyes of Disney+ viewers in the Uk and Hulu in the US; one of the most streamed movies online circa the week of release in Oct 2022. Adapted from YA novel When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle and directed by Karen Maine (Obvious Child), it’s the story of Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), Juliet’s cousin caught up in the familar drama of the star-crossed lovers.

But although he’s the spitting image of Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, this Romeo (Kyle Allen) is a verbose bore, and a testy Juliet (Emilia Clarke) doesn’t appreciate Rosaline’s interventions. Although she’s got a past with Romeo, Rosaline has alternative attentions from handsome boatman Dario (Sean Teale, simultaneously channelling George Clooney and Oscar Isaac, no easy feat). Having failed to stop the lovers getting together, Rosaline gets caught up in their fake suicide plot, leading to a fresh take on the traditionally tragic conclusion.

Until about a century ago many of Shakespeare’s tragedies were regularly performed with happy endings, so there is precedent for changing text with the times. The elaborate, Stoppardian Rosencrantz and Guilderstern re-contextualising of familiar scenes from a fresh perspective is done with sharp wit. ‘I was listening to that!’ complains Rosaline, every bit the moody teen as her mother removes a musician from her bedroom as brusquely if she was switching off a transistor radio. Rosaline the movie enjoys a deliberately anachronistic feel, with Bardcore versions of modern classics from Robyn, Roxette, and Enrique Iglesias’s stormer Escape on the soundtrack. There are some tonal issues; although the tragedy of the climax is amusingly inverted, the actual death of Tybalt don’t quite mesh with the sunny tone. Minnie Driver, however, strikes exactly the right note with her Nurse, or Janet, as she finally reveals herself by name.

Christopher McDonald, Nicholas Rowe, Bradley Whitford; there’s good value in the supporting cast as well, and Rosaline passes muster as an amusing update on the classic story that at least questions the assumptions that we casually make about the values within Shakespeare’s plays. Rather more frivolous than the recent Ophelia, and sorely missing the blast of Icona Pop/Charli XCX’s I Love It that featured in the trailer, Rosaline is a rare teen film that should work for literate adults as well; like Clueless, there’s inherent wit in the way that the ideas are updated, even if the trappings remains so traditionally Shakespearean. If nothing else, the Bard’s credentials as a fresh voice in YA texts should be on the rise after this one.


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    • Minnie Driver IS a plus, and she’s very funny as the nurse. Faux Shakespeare is often better than the real thing, so why not?

    • She’s new to me, but any actress would kill for a role like this and she’s great in it. Very enjoyable film, even if I’m probably not the target audience.

  1. Aw I’m sorry you’re feeling so bad, these things happen when you get so old though. I had to backtrack and double check this was your review thinking I’d read Alex’s Tuesday Shakespear by mistake!

  2. Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Rest, ginger ale, and crackers usually does the trick for me.

    I love these twists on Shakespeare, when they’re done well. 10 Things and Clueless are two of the best, so I’ll give this a shot.

    I don’t have Disney +, but perhaps it’s time to get a free trial and knock of this and Hocus Pocus II.

    • I think this one is Hulu in the US, but like you, I love a contemporary take on Shakespeare, and this is good fun.

      Back to bed with cold sweats and shivers….

  3. Hope you’re feeling better today. If you’re lucky it will just be a 24hr bug kind of thing :-/

    As for this. At what point does something like this pass the line and stop being Shakespeare? When does an update/remake/modernizing stop being tied to the original?

  4. So now everyone’s going to start jumping on the Shakespeare bandwagon? Humph.

    I don’t know if Disney+ does DVDs so it may be a while before I get to this.

    Did you get out of bed to post this morning or are you still a sick little laddy? How did the oatmeal poultice on your tummy work? Do you need me to come over and help out with the ponies and chickens?

    • I noticed Disney+ are farming out Andor to traditional tv outlets, so hopefully that kind of exclusivity you complain of will be short lived.

      I am still poorly and missing another three movies today while I try and regain some semblence of coherence. Thanks for your concern.

      If Shakespeare was still alive today he’s be featuring Icona Pop/Charli XCX in his work. Fact!

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