“Rosaline”: Hulu’s guide to turning an independent woman to a damsel in distress

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Hulu / IMDb

Rosaline: Retelling of Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. Hulu’s Rosaline show the embodiment of Gen-Z.

This review will contain spoilers for “Rosaline.”

During my freshman year at CVHS, I remember reading Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and absolutely hating it. Nothing anyone ever told me made me enjoy the play. In fact, it made me dislike it more. Even if we put aside the age gap between Juliet and Romeo (14 and 17, respectively), I would sum up the play in just three words: dumb, cliché and boring.

But I remember saying multiple times that all Romeo had to do was wait three days to get over Juliet, the same way he did with Rosaline.

And now, even though no one asked for it, Hulu released “Rosaline,” which is a “Romeo and Juliet” retelling but with a twist. We are now in the movie. We are told the story from Romeo’s ex’s point of view, from Rosaline’s perspective.

Rosaline’s character isn’t really discussed a lot in the actual “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare. Her character is seen as a plot device for the play to move forward and for Romeo and Juliet to meet. 

And the information we do get about her is that Romeo has never actually met her and is simply hopelessly in love with the idea he has created for himself based on Rosaline attractiveness. We are told by Romeo that Rosaline is beautiful but completely unavailable as she has taken a vow of chastity.

The best way I can describe this movie is “Romeo and Juliet” meets the “Taming of the Shrew.” “Taming of the Shrew” tells us the story of a convenient marriage between a rich “untamable” woman, Katherina, and a drunk lower-class man, Christopher. Katherina doesn’t want to get married, so her way of combating marriage is to be rude to every possible suitor, alas, giving her the title of “untamable.” But she is married off so her little sister can get married.

Rosaline is exactly like Katherina. Both refused to get married, but their families are trying to force them into marriages. The only difference being Rosaline has a boyfriend—Romeo. 

Iconic Romeo and Juliet balcony scene in Rosaline except it is Rosaline that stands in Juliet’s place (Hulu, courtesy of Disney Plus Informer)

We start off with the iconic balcony scene when Romeo confesses his love to Juliet after the masquerade ball, but this time, it is Rosaline that stands on the balcony, longing for her Romeo. Their relationship completely parallels that of Romeo and Juliet, except they actually know each other.

When Romeo confesses his love for Rosaline and she is unable to say it back, it creates this tension and awkwardness between the couple. In an attempt to change the mood, Rosaline invites Romeo to the masquerade ball later that week.

But when she fails to show up to the ball because she is stuck in the middle of the sea with one of the suitors her father has picked for her, Romeo decides to move on from Rosaline with her younger cousin, Juliet.

And so, we start the story of Rosaline trying to destroy the relationship between Romeo and Juliet to get back her boyfriend.

I loved how this movie poked fun at the fact that Romeo and Juliet didn’t know each other and of the extremes both characters went through just to end up with each other as strangers. “Rosaline” points out all of these inconsistencies.

Rosaline feels like the embodiment of every Gen Z person that hated “Romeo and Juliet.” Her character feels like this feminist “girl boss” persona—that she doesn’t need anyone but herself, similar to the play Rosaline.

Rosaline (left) and Juliet right). Rosaline befriends her cousin Juliet to manipulate her into dumping Romeo. (Hulu)

Yet, at the end, it feels like she still is just a plot device. An afterthought. 

At the beginning, we are shown this beautiful woman. She knows she is beautiful and has all the men wrapped around her finger. She is in control. Whatever she wants goes. If she wants a drink, she gets a drink. She is an icon. She is every man’s dream. But in the end, she is just a damsel in distress that needs saving.

She never loved Romeo. She ended up giving up her relationship with him because she realized that she didn’t love him, but her cousin did, and she wanted her cousin to be happy. That is women supporting women. Solidarity. Empathy. That is a good female character. 

There is this issue with the filmmaking industry: when it comes to having a lead female protagonist, there has to be a male love interest. It is clear the director was trying to follow this by making her have Dario as a love interest. Adding him made the entire character arc Rosaline went through absolutely meaningless. Her whole character is about rejecting society’s expectation: a woman needing a man for her story to be completed, but then, towards the end, she needs a guy to tone down her “rebellious” behavior. 

Rosaline (left) and Dario (right). We are introduced to Rosaline’s love interest Dario. (Hulu)

Rosaline was dealing with all her problems perfectly fine, but they made Dario come in and fix all her problems. Dario being insistent on the possibility of a relationship with Rosaline even after she rejects him with his help is borderline harassment. After she said no, he should have respected it. Realistically, all the issues Rosaline had were caused by Dario. 

All the screen time for the director to try to convince us that Rosaline and Dario had chemistry when they didn’t could have been used to focus on the actual story. The story was marketed on social media, not whatever love mess Rosaline and Dario were going through.

The ending feels rushed and confusing. Rosaline’s whole character arc no longer makes sense when she ends up with Dario. Dario’s whole character comes out as misogynistic because he puts a woman down to “control” her in order for the story to end. His sole purpose is to marry her. His personality is stale, basic, unimaginative, plain jane, unfinished, narcissist, controlling. The words go on.

Rosaline had little to no content to work with. They could have taken her character anywhere they wanted. They could have made her “sky’s the limit.” It was almost impossible for her character to be ruined. Yet somehow, Hulu ended up ruining her for her to either appeal to the ‘male gaze’ or for her story to serve as an example for a much younger audience. If that is the case, then it is just a replica of “Taming of the Shrew.”

Overall, the love triangle between Rosaline, Romeo and Juliet was good, but every time Rosaline and Dario were on screen together, I was bored. There was nothing there. I would most likely not watch this movie again. Honestly, at the 45-minute mark, I was over it for me. It was a genius idea, but the movie wasn’t for me. 5/10. And that is me being generous.

I think I might hate Dario more than I hate Romeo. 

Hulu