In school, I liked Shakespeare, but I hated Romeo and Juliet. Sure, it has some beautiful poetry tucked in, but the story? Too much teen angst. Hulu’s new movie, Rosaline, based on the novel When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle, takes a comedic approach to the tragedy, telling the story through the eyes of Romeo’s (Kyle Allen) girlfriend when he met Juliet (Isabela Merced), Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever).
In the movie, Rosaline has ambitions and a quick wit, rebuffing her father’s (Bradley Whitford) attempts to marry her off. Instead, she wants to marry Romeo, until her cousin Juliet comes home from finishing school and unwittingly steals his affection. Rosaline’s attempts to get her boyfriend back get a funny level of gravitas from Kaitlyn Dever’s snarky performance. Her eyerolls and sighs, paired with the beautiful period costumes and hairstyles give the role a fun, quirky twist. Minnie Driver as Nurse is also a highlight. The bright colors and modern language seem derivative of Hulu’s The Great, but the romance contributes an overall sweeter tone, balancing Shakespearean tragedy with teen romcom tropes. Rosaline certainly does not break new ground in its genre, but it is a fun watch.
Rosaline was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber and directed by Karen Maine. It runs 95 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Emily the Criminal features Aubrey Plaza in a performance sure to be a career highlight. Plaza plays Emily, an artist whose past mistakes left her with a large amount of student debt and trouble finding a job that pays better than her catering delivery gig. When a coworker puts her in touch with Youcef (Theo Rossi), the mastermind behind a credit card fraud scheme, the quick cash lures Emily further into a life of seemingly victimless crime.
As the financial, emotional, and criminal stakes rise, the screenplay keeps the story tight and suspenseful while Plaza and Rossi deliver gripping performances. Plaza takes a step away from the offbeat comedic roles she is most associated with and achieves an outstanding, nuanced depiction of a young woman willing to go to great lengths for financial freedom. Overall, the movie pairs a thrilling plot with a subtle commentary on student debt and attitudes toward debtors. My husband’s succinct review is that Emily the Criminal is 1000 times better than Emily in Paris.
Emily the Criminal was written and directed by John Patton Ford. It runs 97 minutes and is rated R. At first available in select theaters, it is now available to rent or buy on several streaming platforms.
Netflix’s The Watcher is vaguely based on a true story and focuses on the Brannock Family who has just moved to their dream home in the suburbs. Excited to escape the dangers of the city, the family has not even fully moved when they start receiving cryptic letters from “The Watcher.” Spooked, Dean (Bobby Cannavale) and Nora (Naomi Watts) have a security system installed and begin to suspect their menagerie of strange neighbors (Mia Farrow, Margo Martindale, Joe Mantello, et al). The couple hires a private investigator, Theodora (Noma Dumezweni) to help them figure out who is harassing them and try to decide if they should sell the house.
The Watcher tells an engrossing, strange story that delivers a wonderful private investigator complete with film noir gloves and the comedic relief only Jennifer Coolidge can provide. Part murder mystery, part HGTV. The best part, however, is how weird it all seems. From Nora’s giant glasses, meant to signify that she is an artist, to Dean’s penchant for tan-on-tan clothing, and Mia Farrow in braided pigtails—The Watcher delivers twists and quirks and just a bit of commentary on yuppies and suburbs. It is a delicious bit of true-crime-adjacent nonsense.
The Watcher was created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan. It runs for 7 episodes and is rated TV-MA.
Also on Netflix, Inheritance features a solid performance from Lily Collins, clearly trying to show that she can do more than Emily in Paris. Simon Pegg also stars in an uncharacteristically dramatic role and sells it. I cannot offer much of a synopsis because what Inheritance offers most is a “what the heck!?” factor as the story unfolds. Essentially, Collins plays a wunderkind District Attorney who is left an unusual inheritance after her mega-banker father dies suddenly. The movie continues to up the tension and suspense until a final act that gets out in front of its skis. By trying to deliver one twist too many and dropping the chess motif, the film ultimately undermines the story and compelling performances.
Inheritance was written by Matthew Kennedy and directed by Vaughn Stein. It runs 1 hour 51 minutes and is rated TV-MA.
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