Movie Review: Romeo may love Juliet, but he ditched “Rosaline” to get to her

That Romeo Montague is one fickle fop in “Rosaline,” a fanciful, lighthearted riff on The Girl He Left on that Other Balcony.

An adaptation of Rebecca Serle’s novel, it conjures up an unseen character from Shakespeare’s play, a girl young blood Romeo pined for until he spied the fair Rosaline’s fetching cousin. Serle gives us a plucky Rosaline, young woman with smarts and wits and agency, and makes her a comical wild card in that tale of “woe…of Juliet and her Romeo.”

Watchable, reasonably well-cast and handsomely mounted, the three letters that come to mind most often in describing “Rosaline” are “ish.”

It’s funny-ish. Charming-ish. Clever-ish. And it ends with a flourish that almost rectifies the shortcomings that precede it.

Kaitlyn Deaver of “Booksmart” is our title heroine, a spunky “modern” young woman chafing at the restraints and “arranged marriage” machinations of her Capulet padre (Bradley Whitford).

“I’m too YOUNG to get married!” “LOOK at you. You’re almost too OLD!”

And then she has to go and get herself swept off her feet by the smooth-talking swooner, Romeo (Kyle Allen).

“I swear at sight that I never saw true beauty until this night!”

She is smitten, but not without reservations. “Why are you TALKING like that?”

Yes, this is a smart-arsed YA take on this tale of woe, complete with smatterings of profanity (a couple of f-bombs included) and a recognition that The Bard of Avon created the theater’s first-ever gay BFFs. Here, it’s Paris (Spencer Stevenson), Rosaline’s confidante.

But her mentor is her nurse, given snide spark by Minnie Driver. Sure, believe “together forever.” But “Bloody hell, cover your TRACKS woman.”

A sailing date with Dad’s one suitable “arranged” suitor (Sean Teale) is where Rosaline’s designs on Romeo are derailed. Weather delays mean that it is Juliet — played by onetime “Dora the Explorer” Isabela Merced — whom Romeo spies and tumbles for, forgetting all thoughts of fair Rosaline. She even gets to hear him using the same lines he used on her.

The cad.

The fun stuff here is Serle and the filmmakers mashing up of the plays — a little “Taming of the Shrew,” a hint of “All’s Well that Ends Well.” I got a small kick out of Rosaline trying to break up the big Montague-Capulet swordfight on the square.

“You ALL have big swords. Why don’t you put’em back in your pants, now?”

The “cutesy” touches are reminiscent of “A Knight’s Tale,” throwing in modern profanity and setting this or that moment to Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” or Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love).”

You’d think with the director of “Yes, God, Yes” (Karen Maine) behind the camera, this comedy would take flight. Too much of what’s here stops just short of paying off with a big laugh. Blame the script or the tentative players (aside from Deaver, none of the younger cast members knows how to stick a punchline), but for all its intended charm and hilarity, “Rosaline” always settles for “ish.”

Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material and brief strong language (f-bombs, etc).

Cast: Kaithlyn Deaver, Isabela Merced, Sean Teale, Kyle Allen, Bradley Whitford, Spencer Stevenson, Christopher MacDonald and Minnie Driver.

Credits: Directed by Karen Maine, scripted by Scott Neistadter and Michael H. Weber, cased on a novel by Rebecca Serle. A 20th Century film, a Hulu release.

Running time: 1:36

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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