Director: Matthew López
Writers: Matthew López, Casey McQuiston, Ted Malawer
Starring: Taylor Zakhar Perez, Nicholas Galitzine, Uma Thurman, Sarah Shahi, Ellie Bamber, Rachel Hilson, Ashkay Khanna, Aneesh Sheth
Synopsis (IMDb): When the feud between the son of the American President and Britain’s prince threatens to drive a wedge in U.S./British relations, the two are forced into a staged truce that sparks something deeper.
I felt the film adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue was pretty good. Granted, I haven’t read the book (on my list of things to read) but I feel like as a whole, the film was probably a good primer on what people new to the book can expect from its pages.
However, the film does feel like there’s a lot more that could have been put into the film that wasn’t. At worst, this adaptation feels like a Spark Notes version of the book at times, with large chunks of information just told to us (or cut out completely). If you know the adage, “Show, don’t tell,” you’ll know that means to show the important scenes in your film or TV show. Don’t tell the audience what could be better served with a scene showing the audience what’s going on.
Case in point: Alex (Perez) telling Prince Henry (Galitzine) that they first met at a climate summit, during which Henry was snippy with Alex. Little did Alex know that Henry was going through a tough time after a family death, so he was in a bad mood with everyone. Instead of seeing a flashback of them meeting and getting on each other’s nerves, we just hear about it from Alex and Henry. This could have been a prime scene addition to the film.
Certain characters also aren’t introduced in the best way. Nora, Alex’s friend (possible assistant?) and member of the reelection campaign for Alex’s mother, President Ellen Claremont), isn’t really given an introduction. She’s just some woman with Alex while he’s in Britain for the wedding of Prince Philip (Thomas Flynn), Prince Henry’s brother. I thought she was Alex’s girlfriend, setting the stage for a possible showdown between her and Henry. But no–she’s just Alex’s friend. But for people who hadn’t read the book, this information is unknown until later in the movie.
With some storytelling quirks aside, Red, White & Royal Blue is a necessary addition to the film canon about queer romances. This film is, at its core, a feel-good, Hallmark-esque film, and that’s not a slight against it. Straight people have had a monopoly on these sappy love stories, and it’s high time everyone else gets their story told in this format as well. One added bonus though is that this film is on Prime Video, meaning there are some very steamy sex scenes, including one extended scene in which Henry and Alex “make love” (as Henry says) for the first time. (While what they were doing before was just sex, this time involved some different acts, if you know what I mean). This scene is lovingly filmed to give emotional impact as well as the hot feels.
Also important is the films commitment to diversity. Of course, we have racial diversity among the cast including Perez, Clifton Collins Jr. (who plays Alex’s father Oscar Diaz) and Sarah Shahi as Zahra Bankston, President Claremont’s secretary of staff. But we also have intersections of sexual and gender diversity. Aneesh Sheth, plays Amy Gupta, part of the President’s Secret Service. Sheth is a trans actor and activist making strides to pave the way for trans actors in Hollywood. López, the writer of the film, is also queer.
In addition, while Perez isn’t queer himself, or at least hasn’t commented on his sexuality (at least at my last check in my research), Alex, the character he plays, is bisexual. Galitzine also hasn’t commented on his sexuality, but has been in roles that are integral to the growing Gen X canon of LGBTQ films, such as the recent raunchy teen comedy Bottoms.
Overall, Red White & Royal Blue is a fun time. For me, Galitzine is a standout, truly evoking the angst and sensitivity embodying Henry. Out of all of the characters, he was my favorite. Also, it was refreshing that Henry’s angst was the only real drama to deal with–there weren’t really sexual existential crises or families disowning characters (although the King of Britain, played by Stephen Fry seemingly was coming close, but even his hand-wringing about Henry was mostly defanged). On the whole, the film is a great one for fans of fluffy romance films to dive into. It’s also a good advertisement for the book, since I now want to read it for myself.