Saturday, December 9, 2023

Red, White & Royal Blue


US presidential son Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and spare to the British throne Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) share the same amount of rabid animosity towards one another which culminates in a royal scandal as they end up on the floor with a GBP 75,000 wedding cake on them. As damage control, President Ellen Claremont (Uma Thurman) sends her son flying back to London on a series of media appearances with the prince to save her reelection bid and pledges of support from the current UK administration. As the two lads go through the motions, they begin to get to know each other better, with one drunk kiss enough to fan the flames of concealed desires they didn’t know existed. As the two become more intimate with one another, they are hit with their very own realities and the realization that a queer royal love story might not really end well given the circumstances surrounding their respective lives.

It’s not as if Hollywood hadn't been inundated enough with royal rom coms. Remember the early 2000’s? Perhaps what Red, White & Royal Blue brings to the table is changing the most common variable of social status, class, and race into that of gender. In the long history of Britain’s monarchy, there surely have been at least one royal in that family tree who was queer. But we don’t hear about that a lot, because it’s always the straight divorced non-white love interests that make it to the tabloids and history books.

Playing the gender card, this movie offers something new. Debatably. On the surface. Deep beneath that, it is still your tried and tested royal rom com formula. Either way, it is still a win for representation. The LGBTQIA+ community could always use another cinematic entry in its growing filmography. While there are socially relevant issues tackled, let us not forget that Red, White & Royal Blue is a work of fiction and should not be taken too seriously. It’s a romantic comedy. It’s not that deep. We do laud the efforts to open up pathways to conversation, though, especially since the target audience is obviously  a younger demographic.

After all the lovey-dovey and cheesy scenes, Red, White & Royal Blue makes sure that you snap out of the illusion quickly by reminding you that it is, in fact, fiction. Texas suddenly flipping blue and the Brits congregating in front of a palace to support a gay prince? Really? This film is basically Harry and Meghan but instead of her being a straight commoner of African American descent, she’s suddenly a he/him bisexual Latino political scion. Seeing how Britain reacted to the real deal, they’d probably just opt for a collective heart attack as a nation should this storyline magically turn from reel to real.

But that issue is for them to grapple with. For us who couldn’t care less about monarchies and how antiquated and out of place they appear to be in modern society, we could only wonder what other dynamics this narrative would’ve had had they swapped the United States with another ex-British colony that didn’t quite make it to the first world club. Imagine how loaded that love affair would be if you add in some spicy postcolonial flavoring to that LGBTQ soup, like, had Alex been from India or Nigeria instead. Or Hong Kong? That should be fun. But it’s not, so it’s basically just two good looking first world boys bonking each other.

All that aside, Red, White & Royal Blue is actually an enjoyable rom com. While their frequent jabs on each other’s version of English tend to fall into tired stereotypes, Galitzine and Zakhar Perez have palpable onscreen chemistry to make it work. There are witty lines here and there, for the most part coming from Sarah Shahi’s Zahra Bankston. Since this is one of those leave-your-brain-at-the-door kind of rom-com, if you do exactly that, then you are bound for one hell of a good time. 

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