Film Review: “Red, White & Royal Blue” — A Too Magical Romance?

By Sarah Osman

Sanitized as it is, Red, White & Royal Blue is a sign of progress — a queer rom-com has finally entered the fairy-tale film canon.

Nicholas Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar Perez in a scene from Red, White & Royal Blue. Photo: Amazon Prime

Over the years, queer fairy-tale films were as mythical as dragons. Queer folks were relegated to roles like the best friend or stuck in romantic subplots that never worked out, let along ended happily ever after. (The fact is, one of the love interests usually died for the sake of upholding public prejudice.)

So it is a sign of progress that a queer rom-com has finally entered the fairy-tale film canon. Already a best-selling novel, Red, White & Royal Blue has been given the Amazon Prime movie treatment. In true genre fashion, the story slides down the familiar enemies-to-lovers pipeline. Our two foes: Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the “first” son of United States President Ellen Claremont (Uma Thurman), and United Kingdom Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine). The pair cause quite the scandal at a royal wedding after they crash into the $75,000 dollar wedding cake. (If only something that entertaining had happened during the last two real-life royal weddings.) In order to save face, the two present themselves as “friends” for the cameras. But, via a montage of texting, the pair fall in love. This affection poses a political problem: neither one can come out due to the possibility of shaming their countries, or, in Alex’s case, guaranteeing that his mother won’t win reelection. Unfortunately, this aspect of the plot is spot-on: just look at the recent (and blatant) homophobic actions of the Supreme Court.

As for the central couple, Perez and Galitzine have genuine chemistry and are both appropriately swoon-worthy. Their characters are the heart and soul of Red, White & Royal Blue, and it’s impossible not to root for them. But they don’t get much support: the side characters are even more one-dimensional than you find in most rom-coms. Prince Henry has a sweet sister, a stuffy brother, and a homophobic grandfather — that is about all we learn about them, as much as we would glean from a tweet (or would that be an X?). Worse, Uma Thurman turns in a highly questionable performance as Ellen Claremont, primarily because of her inept accent: it may go down in cinematic history as one of the worst Southern accents ever attempted. (It’s not quite as bad as Dick Van Dyke’s attempt at cockney in Mary Poppins, but it’s not far off.)

One of the most unbelievable aspects of the film is its politics, which go far beyond fairy-tale make believe. A Democrat from Texas winning the presidency? Dubious, to say the least. But one that single-handedly has turned the state Democratic? We are in Never Never Land territory, where mice help a princess sew a dress. Texas might be blue-ish but, given the state’s current ideological landscape, would a female president and her gay son be all that well received? (Outside of Austin, that is). Still, Red, White & Royal Blue is a wish-fulfillment fairy tale, so why not let its politics be over-the-top magical?

I have not read Red, White & Royal Blue, so I can’t talk about how the novel compares to the film. The latter is not particularly queer forward, especially compared to other contemporary rom-coms, such as Fire Island and Bros. This tidy Amazon Prime production, from its lighting to its costuming, seems to exist in the same bland world as Hallmark’s holiday films. Sure, there are sex scenes, but they’re not explicit or all that erotic. Even for a fairy tale, Red, White & Royal Blue has been over-airbrushed.

Sarah Mina Osman is a writer residing in Wilmington, NC. In addition to writing for the Arts Fuse, she has written for Watercooler HQ, Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Young Hollywood, and Matador Network, among other sites. Her work was included in the anthology Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era. She is currently a first year fiction MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. When she’s not writing, she’s dancing, watching movies, traveling, or eating. She has a deep appreciation for sloths and tacos. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram: @SarahMinaOsman

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