Self-aware modern retellings of classic stories are a dime a dozen, and “Rosaline” isn’t even the only title on this list that fits the bill. There’s obviously a reason they keep happening — we never tire of the classics — but even when this subgenre does successfully filter an old story through a new lens, the end result tends to feel hollow, pointlessly snarky, or worst of all, hopelessly misunderstands the original story. Even “Rosaline” has its ups and downs when it comes to the adaptation process, but what it has in spades is what the others too often lack: charisma. Namely, that of Kaitlyn Dever who carries the movie with grace and humor as the titular heroine, a reckless teenage girl mixed up in a world-famous tragic romance.
You’ve heard of Romeo and Juliet, but what about Rosaline? Turns out Romeo had healthy love life before meeting his famous beloved, which happens to include Rosaline Capulet, the girlfriend who came before and was speedily shoved aside when the charmer crossed paths with her cousin, Juliet. Thus begins Rosaline’s desperate attempts to foil their budding love and steal back her boyfriend.
Yes, literature’s most famous love story from the perspective of a jilted ex is ultimately exactly what it sounds like: breezy, snarky, and padded with a sweet romance for the protagonist to fall back on. But Dever’s performance is what elevates it: everything hinges on her charm, banter, commentary on the classic story, and her sweet chemistry with Sean Teale’s Dario. At times, it feels like a cheesy, absurdist throwback to the modern Shakespeare retellings of the ’90s — which it pretty much is, but with the period drama setting intact. It’s “Bridgeton” with a funny bone and a magnetic lead performance.