Hands across the sea – and down each other’s trousers – in Red, White & Royal Blue, a cute love story about the son of the US president falling for a British prince.
It is the old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers tale of two people who really don’t get on, until they suddenly do. The snobbish, standoffish Prince Henry and the loud American Alex Claremont-Diaz, who are thrown together at one protocol-heavy event after another, where they regularly irritate the hell out of each other until things come spectacularly to a head at the wedding of the prince’s older brother, when the pair of them somehow end up under the wedding cake, covered in white icing and cream – the nearest this tasteful tale is going to get to a money shot.
Director Matthew López knows exactly what he’s doing with moments like this. Later on, once the two guys have begun ripping each other’s clothes off at every opportunity, López regularly cuts away to something like the Washington Monument – or whatever’s handy and phallic in form – for moments of groanworthy innuendo. Harmless eye-rolling fun.
I do not think there was a shot of a train entering a tunnel, but López does deal briskly with the Arthur/Martha question in one simple scene, though more generally he wants us to know that this is a story about two macho guys with hot libidos going at it, rather than two effeminate nancys. A token effort to keep the homophobes on board.
More generally, López and fellow writers Ted Malawer and Casey McQuiston don’t so much hit the beats of the romantic drama – the meet cute, the eyes across the room, the first kiss and so on – as go at them like a bull at a gate. But then the entire thing takes place in the sort of alternate universe where a British prince can sing karaoke in a redneck bar and no one will post a cheeky picture of it on Instagram. Or, more unlikeliness, the prince’s grandfather, the King (played by Stephen Fry), going from being anti the idea of his grandson coming out as gay/queer/homosexual to OK about it in one short scene.
Self-validation is the theme running through it. Henry is the “spare” – his brother Philip (Thomas Flynn) is the heir – and so has not much to do beyond look decorative, while Alex also has his work cut out trying to justify his existence in the world. He’s written a strategy to help get his mother (Uma Thurman) re-elected but no one will read it.
Both are poor little rich boys too. Henry because he’s never connected with the real world and Alex because he’s lost his connection to it – as we’re told twice, he’s from humble origins and his dad’s Hispanic to boot.
The loose American versus the stiff Brit. The ethnic versus the paleface. The blue-collar guy versus the starched shirt, the two leads get them all on board. They’re well cast. Taylor Zakhar Perez all flashing eyelashes as the nominally bisexual American and Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry, who’s been styled to look like Prince Edward when younger. Galitizine is from the old Russian noble family the House of Golitsyn and brings a certain patrician swagger to his character, and adds an expensive British education to the fine tailoring provided by the wardrobe department.
In nicely played side roles, Juan Castano as the reporter sniffing after a story (and a second crack at onetime lover Alex) and Rachel Hilson as Alex’s right-hand woman and useful explicatory device. Various other royal flunkeys and White House operatives help give it a bit more breadth than you might expect.
It’s bright and bouncy and even sometimes funny. At half an hour shorter it would retain more of the good will it’s built up to the end, when it departs reality entirely and vaults royally upwards into a realm of pure corn.
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© Steve Morrissey 2023