You know that thing where a movie is fine, but the performance from the lead actor or actress is something really special? That's Rosaline. This rom-com, set in the world of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, is a nice, charming little film that you'll nevertheless barely remember six months from now. Star Kaitlyn Dever, however, lights it up, cementing her status as one of the most appealing young actresses working today. Her career deserves to get another significant boost.
She plays Rosaline, the girlfriend of Romeo (Kyle Allen). They carry on a secret romance because her father, Adrian Capulet (Bradley Whitford), is seeking to arrange a marriage for her. His current candidate is Dario (Sean Teale), a nice, handsome gentleman she has zero interest in. The game changes when Rosaline's cousin Juliet (Isabela Merced) arrives on the scene. Romeo falls for her at first sight, an attraction that is reciprocated. Rosaline obviously doesn't take well to being dumped, so she plots to break them up. Dario eventually gets pulled into the scheme.
Of course, you more or less know what's going to happen. Romeo and Juliet is a famous story that can't be significantly tinkered with, and anytime you have opposite-sex characters like Rosaline and Dario bickering, it's only a matter of time before that sexual tension turns into love. The movie leans into its predictability by cleverly weaving famous elements from Shakespeare's tale with Rosaline's story. The finale, in particular, does this, putting an amusing spin on the lovers' famous fates. Elsewhere, the characters have very contemporary personalities, speaking in modern vernacular. (Rosaline at one point turns to Dario in anger and says, “Blow me!”) Incongruous use of pop songs like Roxette's “It Must Have Been Love” further the film's self-aware fantasy.
At the center is Kaitlyn Dever, who makes Rosaline charming even when she's behaving detestably. The star hits every joke perfectly, tosses off hilarious facial expressions when frustrated or annoyed, and makes sure never to lose the powerful emotions inside this young woman. There isn't a false note in her entire performance. Dever is so winning that she immediately draws us in to the story, guaranteeing that Rosaline will hit the bullseye with the target teen-girl audience, yet still hold substantial appeal for viewers outside that demographic.
Most of Rosaline's supporting players are a little underdeveloped, and you won't find a ton of depth in the plot. The picture is simply meant to be enjoyable fluff. It works on that level. The Romeo and Juliet tie-ins are funny, and Kaitlyn Dever ensures that Rosaline's dilemma comes alive. She picks up the whole movie and carries it like a pro.
out of four
Rosaline is rated PG-13 for some suggestive material and brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.