Coming out can be a struggle for a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a journey one has to take, mostly on a solo trip, as the individual weighs the ramifications of his/her/their gender identity on relationships at home, in school, in church, or at work.
Now, imagine that public scrutiny magnifying a billion-fold, with the economic and political futures of two states at stake, and the whole world watching. The film adaptation of the romance novel Red, White, & Royal Blue centers on that premise, which may be a clichéd plot for heterosexual rom-coms but a fairy tale that had been a long time coming for cisgender gay-bisexual men.
So instead of a boy-meets-girl story, we get a British prince and a U.S. presidential first son, starting as frenemies, slowly falling in love with each other as they are forced to do a PR stunt for both countries. Taylor Zakhar Perez of Kissing Booth fame effortlessly plays Alex Claremont-Diaz, a law student who is secure with his bisexuality. Nicholas Galitzine, the prince in Prime Video’s Cinderella, takes another royal role as Prince Henry Fox-Mountchristen-Windsor, a closeted gay equestrian with no luck on Grindr.
Red, White, & Royal Blue is formulaic but fills the need for fluffy, endearing gay romance movies beyond Pride Month. While steamy scenes would make you swoon, they are hardly pornographic and are only suggestive. Sensual scenes are also conventions in straight romance films, anyway, and adding these to the film hopefully shows that homosexual relationships are not too different from everyone else.
One powerful point in the movie is a line from Uma Thurman’s character, U.S. President Ellen Claremont. With a thick Texas accent, she says that the “B” in LGBT is not a silent letter. This reflects how bisexuality is being looked down upon even by the members of the queer community, invalidating it as a phase before being full-gay. Director and screenwriter Matthew Lopez also highlighted the animosity within the community by changing a subplot from the novel.
A lot of changes were made in the film adaptation, including writing out characters to tighten the story. While archival footage of public crowds was used in the movie, there was a pivotal scene in the third act that left this out, which affected the believability of the story. Whether it’s due to budget constraints or Lopez’s theater background, it did not make sense to wave hands at an invisible audience.
On the flip side, real-life news presenters and correspondents making cameos added cred. The movie also borrowed a storytelling technique from Sense8, adding intimacy to their long-distance relationship.
Comedy is also on-point. Non-disclosure agreements and security clearances take a whole level of meaning when it involves hook-ups and kissing between two prominent figures. In this idealized world, the U.S. Secret Service and the MI6 are in on it.
The official soundtrack is amazing. Whoever curated it concocted a mystical spell so viewers would be more enamored with the two characters’ romance. Vagabon’s If I Loved You perfectly captures the tension, anxiety, and eventually, calmness, of stepping into a same-sex relationship. Get Low, the dance music played during the New Year’s Eve Party at the White House, had an unexpected contribution to the love story, along with a time-stopping choreography.
A huge bulk of the story is set in the U.S. to contrast with the British prince’s conservative upbringing. This makes Alex’s POV much more pronounced in the movie than Prince Henry’s. A sequel perhaps can focus more on the UK and develop the British prince’s character more.
Sublimely silly and fun to watch, Red, White, & Royal Blue is a precious rom-com, not because it is groundbreaking, but because it is refreshing to see a happy gay couple on screen.
Red, White, & Royal Blue is streaming on Prime Video. Watch the trailer below.