A few years ago, American author Casey McQuiston wrote a bestselling LGBTQ+ young adult romantic comedy which centred on a relationship between two men who are highly prominent in their respective nations. The novel, titled Red, White & Royal Blue, is now a feature film (Amazon Prime) directed by Matthew Lopez.
Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) is the first son of the United States. His mother Ellen Claremont (Uma Thurman) is the President of the United States of America, on the cusp of fighting for re-election. When Alex’s visit to the King of England’s grandson’s wedding in London ends in an embarrassing cake incident involving the groom’s brother Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), the US President, her PR machinery and the PR machinery of the British Royal family jointly orchestrate appearances and press interviews to diffuse a potential diplomatic crisis.
Not only does the story juxtapose gay relationships with the acceptance of straight couples, it spotlights the suffocation of being born into extreme privilege and pledged to public service. Through the American boy and the British royal, the film also compares the openness and freedom within two very different societies. Alex has agency, a voice, and the support of his parents whereas, even as a ‘spare’, Henry is beholden to the Crown and his country.
Sparsely humorous, the love story starts well, with crackle. Gradually the screenplay succumbs to hackneyed plot points such as secrets dangerously close to bursting out of closets, prying journalists, uppity kings and their heirs, and an idyllic country getaway.
It’s hard to ignore how effortlessly the two men zip across the Atlantic, burning fossil fuels and taxpayers’ money, to further their secret intercontinental romance. Taylor Zakhar Perez’s charm and Nicholas Galitzine’s boyish arrogance keeps you rooting for Alex and Henry, especially during the initial culture clashing, flirty phase. Add to this a shot of Thurman’s interpretation of a Texas native in the Oval Office. Later, the 118-minute film starts tripping over its own untied shoelaces, trying to wriggle its way out of the conundrum of a gay Prince weighed down by the monarchy.
There are shades of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s infamous love affair combined with British wit and American enthusiasm in a LGBTQ+ Mills and Boon landscape. If Red, White & Royal Blue sounds inelegant and feeble, it is.