This month, Amazon Prime gave “international relations’’ a new definition with its latest movie, “Red, White & Royal Blue.” The LGBTQ+ romantic comedy is an adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s novel of the same name. It follows the enemies-to-lovers journey of Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez, “Minx”), the son of the President of the United States, and Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine, “High Strung”), the second in line to the British Throne.
After an argument with Henry at Henry’s older brother’s royal wedding leads to an international scandal, Alex is sent back to Britain by the President (Uma Thurman, “Kill Bill: Volume 1”) to do “some good old-fashioned
Alex and Henry have to make public appearances together in Henry’s home country to convince the world that they are actually best friends, despite hating each other’s guts. However, as they spend more time together, their relationship turns unexpectedly romantic. The two young men go from being forced to spend time together to dreading having to be oceans apart.
Roadblocks that transcend the typical romantic media tropes have riddled Alex and Henry’s love story: they start the story hating each other, arguing with the other whenever they are as near as within the same room. As the plot progresses, Alex works to accept his bisexual identity while simultaneously working to help his mother win re-election. At the same time, Henry struggles to balance his identity as a closeted gay man with his duties as part of the royal family. Their respective countries of residence bring a fresh spin to the term “long-distance relationship.”
As their love for each other grows, other outside forces pose challenges for the two men’s possible future together. Alex treats his love for Henry the same way that he does everything in his life: he throws his all into it with a signature display of self-assuredness. However, he still has to be hyper-aware of being in the nation’s spotlight so close to an election that decides whether his mother will be the president again.
On the other hand, while Henry loves Alex immensely, he still cannot let their relationship feel too real, or the potential consequences become too overwhelming. He knows that he was born into a bloodline that will always be ruled by centuries of tradition that do not allow for an openly gay prince.
Despite leaving out a substantial amount of material from its source, the movie still manages to bring the printed words to life onscreen with the help of actors Galitzine and Perez. Perez captures Alex’s politically-driven workaholic personality while not leaving out his animated cheekiness, complemented by Galitzine’s portrayal of Henry’s poised yet deeply caring demeanor. Together, the actors take the audience through the protagonists’ whirlwind romance, filled with constant text banter, passionate hook-ups and tender, emotional moments.
In the book, Henry’s struggle as a gay royal is more drawn out and so is Alex’s bisexual “awakening;” there are also many other seemingly vital characters that did not make the final movie cut. However, given the complicated process of translating 432 pages into less than two hours, director Matthew Lopez successfully picked out critical scenes and dialogue that fans of the novel would deem necessary. Lopez also sped up the book’s “slow burn” plot considerably without the relationship’s development feeling significantly rushed. Through those choices, the movie stays close enough to its source material to satisfy readers while not having an absurdly long runtime.
While parts of “Red, White & Royal Blue” are predictable by traditional rom-com standards, it handles queer identities and stories without infantilizing or sensationalizing them. Though television and movies have begun to highlight LGBTQ+ relationships more and more, many of them include heartbreak, rejection and pain as primary characteristics, which is not all there is to queer relationships. While movies such as “Moonlight,” “Firebird” and “A Fantastic Woman” gained critical acclaim and are well-done in execution, ≠≠audiences deserve movies that do not end in tragedy, be it by death or loneliness. “Red, White & Royal Blue” offers such a movie. It does not erase the struggles of the queer community, but it gives viewers a happy, hopeful and fulfilling conclusion that shows that same-sex couples can have the same “fairytale ending” as straight ones.
OUR TAKE: 4/5 STARS