Friday, June 14, 2024

“RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE”

THE STORY – Alex Claremont-Diaz, the first son of the United States, and young Prince Henry fall in love. However, considering their high-profile public lives, they must keep their relationship a secret at all costs.

THE CAST – Taylor Zakhar Perez, Nicholas Galitzine, Uma Thurman, Stephen Fry, Sarah Shahi & Ellie Bamber

THE TEAM – Matthew Lopez (Director/Writer) & Ted Malawer (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 118 Minutes


“What if the Prince of England and the son of the President of the United States fell in love?” is a pretty enticing hook as far as romances go, which is a large part of why Casey McQuiston’s novel “Red, White & Royal Blue” became a best-seller. A film adaptation would have been assured had one of the main characters been female, but nothing is ever assured when it comes to queer love stories in Hollywood, so it’s heartening to see that not only was an adaptation greenlit but that it’s been adapted by Tony-winning playwright Matthew López for his directorial debut. López has a fantastic ear for dialogue and a way with gentle storytelling that can still leave an emotional impact, making him a near-perfect fit for the material. Thankfully, he slides very comfortably into the director’s chair, turning in a slick, glossy rom-com that should please everyone. (Everyone, that is, who’s over seventeen, as the MPAA has seen fit to slap the film with an R rating for no discernible reason.)

Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the good-looking, fun-loving son of U.S. President Ellen Claremont (Uma Thurman), can not stand Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), the good-looking, reserved Prince of England, and the feeling is mutual. When a Royal wedding misunderstanding ends with the two eligible bachelors on the floor covered in the wedding cake, the White House and Buckingham Palace agree that the two boys must spend time together to show that they’re friends and not trying to cause an international incident. In spending time together, they each discover that the other might not be so bad, actually, and before you know it, Prince Henry kisses Alex on the mouth, and Alex kisses him back. A classic enemies-to-lovers romance, but can their love survive the outdated conservative views of both the American people and the Royal Family?

The political nature of the story leads to some plot points that stretch our suspension of disbelief quite a bit (two of the most high-profile, highly-guarded people on the planet can avoid ANY suspicion of their relationship?). However, the film all but presents itself as a fantasy right from the start, essentially encouraging us to throw logic out the window and just enjoy ourselves. This is exceedingly easy to do, given the pure rom-com pleasures of the plot and the charm of all the performers. For his part, López creates a genuinely enchanting romantic fantasy, giving glowing cinematic life to some of the book’s most romantic scenes. A hookup at a polo match is a particularly great showcase for Kristina Hetherington’s seamless editing, throwing us headfirst into the sexy, pulse-pounding rush of a secret affair. The pair’s first kiss at a New Year’s Eve party is one of several times where Stephen Goldblatt’s glossy cinematography embraces the digital sheen a bit too much, which can make the film look flatly generic. In this particular case, however, it almost feels like the film itself embracing its inner cheesiness and giving in to the fantasy, which somehow loops back on itself to make the moment feel genuine.

Readers may be disappointed to find some of their favorite characters sidelined for the film (most notably Alex’s younger sister, June), but all the characters are so well-drawn that it doesn’t matter so much. In the tradition of the best romantic comedies, the entire cast of supporting characters pops off the screen. López has found the perfect performers to refine his already sharp dialogue – itself a fantastic transference of McQuiston’s prose in the novel – into polished gems. Thurman and Stephen Fry (as the King of England) lend real gravitas to their very different world leaders, making the film as much about the pressures on the ruling class as it is about two young men learning to love each other. Sarah Shahi is a riot as the President’s hypercompetent deputy chief of staff, and Rachel Hilson is an appealingly warm presence as the Vice President’s granddaughter and Alex’s best friend.

As important as a memorable ensemble is for a romantic comedy, they really live or die on their romantic leads. Thankfully, Perez and Galitzine are fantastic both separately and together. While they’re each perfectly swoon-worthy on their own, their chemistry with each other is what makes the film work. Both actors are able to make their character’s respective plights feel heart-stoppingly real, but this sort of film only works if we want the leads together, and their feeling for each other becomes so palpable that it’s all anyone could want for Alex, Henry, their families, and their respective countries. It may still be controversial to show two men kissing onscreen (such great care is taken to reveal not even a tiny part of either man’s bare bottom that it’s impossible to imagine this film receiving an R rating if it featured heterosexual leads), but “Red, White & Royal Blue” proves that there’s still juice left in the old formulas as long as you have a cast and director that knows exactly what to do with them.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - With a screenplay full of tart dialogue, escapist romance, vibrant supporting characters, and swoon-worthy leads, what more could you ask for from a romantic comedy?

THE BAD - The story requires perhaps too much suspension of disbelief on some levels. While well-made, it also has a somewhat generic "direct to streaming" look.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Dan Bayer
Dan Bayer
Performer since birth, tap dancer since the age of 10. Life-long book, film and theatre lover.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>With a screenplay full of tart dialogue, escapist romance, vibrant supporting characters, and swoon-worthy leads, what more could you ask for from a romantic comedy?<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The story requires perhaps too much suspension of disbelief on some levels. While well-made, it also has a somewhat generic "direct to streaming" look.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE"