Red, White and Royal Blue Review: Dripping With Charm From Top To Bottom

The romantic comedy, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, seduces you with its sincere commitment to being sentimental
Red, White and Royal Blue Review: Dripping With Charm From Top To Bottom

Director: Matthew Lopez

Writer: Matthew Lopez

Cast: Nicholas Galitzine, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Uma Thurman, Stephen Fry, Rachel Hilson, Sarah Shahi, Ellie Bamber, Clifton Collins Jr. Aneesh Sheth, Akshay Khanna

What does it mean to excavate logic from a film about desire, the kind of desire that reduces  two men, well-known public figures, to sometimes recklessly ravage each other in hotel rooms despite knowing that the worst that could happen?

Red, White and Royal Blue is a film adaptation of the Casey Mcquiston novel of the same name, and follows the story of Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) and Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez). The former is a part of the British aristocracy, and his grandfather is the king of England (Stephen Fry). The latter is the son of the President of the United States (Uma Thurman). Henry and Alex are set-up to be enemies, then lovers — they had met at a party years ago when Alex’s mother seriously forayed into the realm of politics. He, by extension, felt ushered into international scrutiny and rooms that felt like cesspools of privilege. Especially sensitive about his image at that time, he tried to reach out to Henry, who instead  indicated to his security that he “needed to get out of here”. Alex has since construed this as rejection. 

However, years later, after a very public altercation in which the two men end up on the floor covered in an obscenely expensive cake, it turns out that their petty dislike for one another has geopolitical implications. Credible news channels back this up, even if Alex doesn’t want to admit that his personal resentment for Henry can cause ripples. So they do a series of public events together, pretending to be friends, while privately expressing their thinly veiled disdain for each other.

All is cleared up when they are involuntarily scooped into a tiny broom closet of a hospital during a potential security breach, bodies squeezed together, breaths audible, and the truth is disclosed. Alex was hurt that Henry could not understand how intimidating it was for him to venture into a world in which he could not identify with anyone else. Henry, on the other hand, contextualises his coldness by disclosing his father had recently passed away. With this misunderstanding out of the way, Henry obtains Alex’s contact details and they begin exchanging emails, which lays the groundwork for their sexual and romantic  yearning and urgency. “Princes are not allowed to be gay,” says Alex’s best friend Nora (Rachel Hilson) at one point. But Henry is, and very soon, passionate, ‘clothe ripping intensity’ kind of sex ensues in hotel rooms and privately owned properties between the First Son and the British Prince. 

The film flits between their aching, desperate horniness and gentler moments of contemplation with a deceptive ease: the sessions of intense love making easily turn into quieter divulgings of Henry’s claustrophobia within the institution of the British monarchy, and Alex’s earnest political ambitions to centre more humane economic policies. 

The suspension of disbelief in the film is located in the ease, the convenience with which the implications of systemic issues get resolved for both the characters. Sometimes, within the span of a single scene, the character is lifted out of a menacing situation into a utopia where everyone’s prejudice can unspool with a speech, or simply by the fact that Henry and Alex become victims to hacking: their private emails are dispersed around the globe. People show up in droves to support Henry outside Buckingham Palace once he is outed. His grandfather, befuddled by the scale of public acceptance for Henry’s sexuality, has a change of heart despite only moments earlier chastising him for shirking his princely duties. This is the same man, the film insinuates, who forcefully, abusively separated his grandson from his past lovers.

Ease and convenience are not a bad thing. These are not contrived occurrences, but purposefully carved out to bolster sentimentality within the film. There is a very gentle rejection of intellectual needling.  Instead, the film foregrounds feelings, and allots them a great amount of negotiating power to endear, to move, to cause shifts. Logic, on the other hand, undermines romance. Does it make any logical sense whatsoever for these two men, public figures, to riskily canoodle in hotels as one of them is campaigning for his mother’s reelection, whereas the other one is a British prince, and is being equally, if not more surveilled to see how he conforms to hetero-patriarchal aristocracy? 

Why do we want to stuff logic within the realm of desire anyway, when it is so dangerously susceptible to prejudice?

The genre has thrived when it has evaded logic, when it sincerely splatters the screen with fantasy. Think about the ending of Notting Hill (1999), in which we learn, and digest that the two are married and happily pregnant, despite the film building the stakes up to the contrary. Closer home, look at Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013).We bend over backwards to accommodate the film’s suggestion that Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) will find bliss in domesticity, albeit a few air travels here and there. 

Red, White and Royal Blue neatly slots itself into this tradition of the rom-com by choosing to underscore the negotiations of love with sentimentality, and it does it with such sincerity that it almost feels genuine, not like a superficial glaze. But then, how else do you pursue romantic love? And how else do you pursue romantic love between two men who have no incentive to fall in love, except that they do?

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