“Red, White & Royal Blue” Review: Faith in RomComs Restored

Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry and Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz in Prime Video’s Red, White & Royal Blue. Credit: Prime Video

If you watched our Pride webcast, you’ll know that I was very excited about this summer because of all the queer media that was coming out. First, we had Good Omens, then Heartstopper, and now we have Red, White & Royal Blue. Three very different types of stories that will hopefully show The Powers That Be that we really want variation in our LGBTQ+ media. And what I hope that Red, White & Royal Blue proves is that we need some decent queer romcoms!

For the uninitiated, here are the basics. Red, White & Royal Blue is based on the best-selling novel by Casey McQuiston. In it, First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) considers Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) (not the heir, the spare) to be his arch-nemesis. When the two cause an *ahem* incident at the wedding of Henry’s older brother, the White House and the Palace shift into PR mode. For the good of international relations, Alex and Henry must pretend to be BFFs. The forced interactions lead to real closeness, which eventually leads to the two of them dating in secret.

I have been waiting for the Red, White & Royal Blue movie for what feels like ages. Book-to-movie adaptations are always hit or miss for me, but all I wanted out of this film was for it to not be completely terrible, and I would be happy. Well, I’m happy! It was much better than not completely terrible. (What a ringing endorsement! That should go on the DVD cover they’ll never end up making.)

While it lacked some of the nuance of the book (understandable), and there were some things omitted that I’m sad to see go, it stood on its own as a pretty decent romcom. We need more of these! It managed to balance funny, sexy, and sweet. I enjoyed the texting and email montages – particularly with the texting montage how they sometimes made it seem as though the two were in the same room – although I will admit that the email exchanges lacked some of the sincerity that was in the book. 

I do think that Perez and Galitzine were at their best when they were bantering, and I’m glad they kept the bickering as I feel that’s an important part of their dynamic. The sexy scenes were also pretty well done – admittedly not as graphic as I expected, when I heard about the R rating, but still managing to be pretty intense. These two have amazing chemistry; their first kiss, when Henry blindsides Alex at the New Year’s Party, reminded me a lot of the first rooftop scene from Bad Buddy in the way that Henry just went for it (and the way he was gripping Alex’s hair). I also loved the little moments, like Alex grabbing Henry’s “kiss” at karaoke.

(I am annoyed that instead of Alex giving Henry his number, as in the book, they instead had Henry get it from MI6, which is intrusive and creepy.)

Perez and Galitzine also nailed their characters quite respectably. Perez absolutely exuded Alex’s irreverence and charm, always ready with a quip but capable of being serious when the situation called for it. Galitzine made Henry’s facial journey a sight to behold, British stoicism that leaks out when pressed.

Thankfully they left in some of the iconic lines, such as Alex’s, “History, huh? Bet we could make some,” and Henry’s email ode to Alex’s body. But I will admit that I found some of the dialogue to be a bit awkward. Two moments stood out to me, and it could just be a personal preference: Henry’s request to make love in their Paris hotel room, and Alex telling Henry he would “trouble him no more”. The first just came off as a bit weird, and the second sounded like it belonged more in a Jane Austen drama than a 21st-century romcom.

Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry, Malcolm Atobrah as Percy Okonjo, Rachel Hilson as Nora Holleran, and Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz in Prime Video’s Red, White & Royal Blue.

The secondary characters (the ones they left in at least) were fantastic, but especially Zahra (Sarah Shahi). She was exactly as I pictured her when reading the book. Likewise, I also loved Nora (Rachel Hilson) and her relationship with Alex, though I do wish they’d made her more numbers-obsessed like she was in the book. And as much as I adored Amy (Aneesh Sheth), Pez (Malcolm Atobrah), and Shaan (Akshay Khanna), they were sadly under-utilized, as so many scenes had to be cut for time.

I will say that even though stuff had to be cut (there was a scene in the trailer that wasn’t in the film, they have got to stop doing that), they actually expanded on some of the scenes. The interview blitz after the cake fiasco is a singular interview in the book, and largely glossed over as Alex and Henry move onto the children’s hospital. So I loved that they took that moment and made it more. Watching the two of them be passive-aggressive in responding to interview questions was a treat. (It reminded me of the press junket interviews from America’s Sweethearts. Am I dating myself with that reference?)

What I was most appreciative of with Red, White & Royal Blue is that it leaned more idealistic than realistic. Not all queer media needs to be bogged down with homophobia and other real-world problems. This is fiction, and as such, it’s allowed to do whatever it wants (even flip Texas blue). And while I’m a little upset that the supportive queer community is largely absent from the screen adaptation (I do wish we’d have actually gotten to see the crowd that had gathered outside of Buckingham Palace, and not just the reflection in the window), I do like that this movie was about Alex and Henry’s relationship and not the political and social hotbed of two prominent figures coming out. Alex made a big speech, Henry got to stand up for himself, honestly who cares about anything else?

Now, it’s virtually impossible for me to watch a movie adaptation of a book I love and not compare the two, so I hope you appreciate that I saved it until the end. The absence of these did not (totally) affect my enjoyment of the film, which made me giddy and stupidly happy. Nonetheless, here are some of the things from the book that I missed in the movie:

  1. JUNE. And honestly other family members. I know that in the interest of simplicity and brevity, some characters had to be eliminated. But I feel that getting rid of Alex’s sister, not to mention altering the family dynamics (Ellen and Oscar are divorced in the book, and Ellen is re-married), changed something fundamental about the characters as people. When Oscar was giving Alex a pep talk, telling him that no one believed in his and Ellen’s relationship, it’s a little hard to take that moment seriously when you know that in the book they didn’t last. I also really wanted that moment with Henry’s mom coming in and defending him, because Henry needed more people in his corner.
  2. Alex’s bi-crisis. It takes Alex much longer to come to terms with his bisexuality in the book than in the movie. I really wanted to see it on screen because Alex is an oblivious chaotic bi and completely unaware of it, and his internal monologue is hilarious. But it’s hard to portray an internal monologue in a film without being super cheesy, so I understand why it was simplified. Alex having been with two guys before, as opposed to one, definitely makes it easier for him to believe that he isn’t straight.
  3. Ellen’s PowerPoint presentation. I do like that they referenced it, but I just really wanted to see this in the movie. It was hilarious.
  4. Ellen’s political opposition leaking the emails. I guess, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t quite so important. As I mentioned before, the film focuses more on the relationship than the political fallout, so in the end it doesn’t matter how the emails leaked. But I much prefer that it was a targeted political attack than a seemingly petty, jilted ex of Alex’s. And as someone that works in news, it bothers me that one of the only journalists that has any real screen time is so unethical.

Basically, this is a movie that has endless rewatchability. I stayed up late to watch it last night, and I will likely put it on today as soon as I get home from the office. It was sweet and sexy and funny and while not necessarily the perfect movie, it was enjoyable and entertaining. Is my faith in romcoms restored? Yes, I think so.

Red, White & Royal Blue is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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