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Red, White & Royal Blue Review: American Nonsense That’s Unexpectedly Adorable

Did you ever meet someone who at first seems objectionable, but with time finds a place in your heart? That’s both the plot and the viewing experience for Red, White & Royal Blue, an Amazon production based on the well-loved novel of the same name by Casey McQuiston. In it, the son of the American president and an English prince begin as rivals but quickly fall in love and have to keep their relationship a secret for the sake of their respective countries.

Packed with national cliches, intermittently stunted dialogue, and an early cake-based bit of slapstick, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is going to be one excruciating ride. But somehow, Red, White & Royal Blue manages to be actually sort of sweet. This is a modern-set, yet ‘90s-styled and Bridgerton-lite, bit of wish fulfillment where beautiful rich people argue about privilege and entitlement and have tasteful and romantic sex. It’s New Adult (skewed towards 18 to 25 year old as opposed to Young Adult) but rated R (for sex and swearing), and comes with more than a sprinkle of Princess Diaries vibes. Which is to say it’s a bit of a mishmash and it’s not entirely clear who the film is aimed at, but at the same time it’s deliciously addictive.

The film is the feature directorial debut of celebrated playwright Matthew Lopez, the first Latino man to win a Tony Award for Best Play for his drama The Inheritance. It explores what it’s like to be a gay man today, which tackles class and generational differences. While there is a certain theatricality to Red, White & Royal Blue (Lopez also wrote the screenplay), you can imagine he might have enjoyed making something frothy, light and bright for his first film. 

Nicholas Galitzine plays Prince Henry, the “spare” whose elder brother Philip (Thomas Flynn) is the heir to the throne. To all-American Alex (Taylor Zakhar Perez) ), Henry is the model of stuffy Britishness: rude, arrogant, smug and condescending. Alex, on the other hand, is ostensibly the laid back, typical American charmer. He’s the child of Uma Thurman’s Texan Democrat president, who is about to go toe-to-toe for her second term. He has a “working class chip on his shoulder” (!) and thinks he’s fighting the good fight despite being wealthy, handsome, and fortunate.

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