Red, White & Royal Blue (2023)

by - August 11th, 2023 - Movie Reviews


Glossily Charming Red, White & Royal Blue Wins a Satisfying Electoral Romcom Victory

Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) is the dashing son of President Ellen Claremont (Uma Thurman) and confidently stoic First Gentleman Oscar Diaz (Clifton Collins Jr.). He is in England for the wedding of Prince Phillip (Thomas Flynn), the heir to his grandfather, King James III (Stephen Fry), when he unintentionally gets into a ridiculous row with the monarch’s younger brother, Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine).

Red, White & Royal Blue (2023) | PHOTO: Amazon Studios

Using their crack diplomatic skills, the pair quickly transform this mountain of an international incident into a charmingly silly molehill rather quickly. In the process, Alex and Henry discover that their mutual animosity has been stupidly misplaced. In fact, even though their backgrounds and upbringings are massively different, they have far more in common than either assumed. A strong friendship between them begins to materialize, with Alex and Henry intimately conversing by text, email, and phone, as well as in person, with increasing frequency.

I get that Bros was far more high-profile (and received a legit theatrical release, not just a cursory bow in a couple of venues before beginning a streaming run on Amazon Prime), but as jubilantly giddy, studio-financed, Gay-themed rom-coms go, I’ll take director Matthew López’s Red, White & Royal Blue over it every day of the week.

Goodness knows, the film follows an overly familiar playbook. But that happily does not make it any less enjoyable. This is a harmless love story told with energetic conviction that happily allows its Queer characters to just be and not be entirely defined by their sexuality.

Not that any of this is especially deep. Having never read author Casey McQuiston’s original novel, I can’t say with any certainty how closely this adaptation mirrors the source material. However, based on the above synopsis alone, it’s safe to say that making this effort a colorfully glossy fairy tale is hardly an accident. Problems are solved with rudimentary ease. All of the outcomes pretty much go as expected. Happy endings are par for the course.

And that’s perfectly fine. López’s debut is handsomely mounted and exceedingly well cast, has several enchanting moments, and ends up being such romantically satisfying fun that the fact that it isn’t particularly profound isn’t nearly as problematic as it could have been. Alex and Henry fall into one another’s arms (and beds) with intoxicating ease, and this makes the naturalistic grace of their blossoming romance difficult to resist.

There are plenty of subplots that, had they been fleshed out and allowed more room to develop, could have substantially elevated the material and maybe made the film something truly special. Instead, entire threads involving President Claremont’s reelection bid and another centered on Alex’s supposedly masterful plan to switch Texas from red to blue (thus ensuring his mother’s victory) don’t really go anywhere. They and other tangents (Sarah Shahi as the White House deputy chief of staff is mostly wasted, save one amusing moment in which she catches Alex and Henry with their pants down) add an additional layer of sitcom simplicity that’s distracting, and I wish López had given them tangible narrative weight.

Red, White & Royal Blue (2023) | PHOTO: Amazon Studios

But Perez and Galitzine have terrific chemistry, and every time they’re together — which is most of the time — things can’t help but spring to life. There is also something to be said about seeing a love affair like this one affirmed and celebrated, and even though there are obvious roadblocks placed in front of the pair to sabotage their future happiness, these are dealt with in a goofily satisfying, simplistic manner that fits the tenor of the material beautifully.

Right now, with all that’s happening in the world and the way that the very existence of LGBTQ communities has once again inexplicably become a hot-button political talking point, that something as smart and as entertaining like Red, White & Royal Blue exists is nothing to scoff at. That it does so with such unapologetic confidence is even more so. As slight as it may be, this is a winning romantic comedy that will leave viewers smiling and, in this instance at least, that’s more than enough to satisfy.

– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle

Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)

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