Anyone who read Casey McQuiston’s best-selling 2019 novel, Red, White & Royal Blue, or who continues to be thoroughly demoralized by all-things-MAGA, will be thrilled to stream this rom-com/ alternate-reality/LGBTQ fantasy-fairy-tale produced by Amazon Studios and directed by Matthew Lopez (the acclaimed playwright of The Inheritance). The story imagines a world in which the son of the first woman president of the United States falls in love with a prince of England, and the public embraces the relationship with enthusiasm and support. This glossy and upbeat adaptation delivers on its promise of escapism and fun for fans of the book and newbies alike.
Taylor Zakhar Perez (think: young George Clooney but buff with even dreamier eyes) plays Alex Claremont-Diaz, the smart and handsome First Son who has a tense relationship with Prince Henry, the pouty and pretty heir to the English throne played by Nicholas Galitzine, who recently starred in Cinderella (also on Amazon, 2021). The two guys have to fake a friendship to avoid a diplomatic crisis when their co-attendance at a royal wedding causes a cake-smashing fiasco. But pretending begets real attraction, and their secret romance travels from London to Texas to Paris.
Perez and Galitzine have a winning chemistry that carries the movie through its predictable and implausible plot. From their meet-cake cute moment to their ultimate hook-up, these actors are charming and expressive, skillfully conveying humor and emotion. They are supported by a stellar cast, including Uma Thurman as Alex’s formidable mother, married to a working-class Mexican American ex-Congressman (Clifton Collins); Sarah Shahi as her savvy chief of staff; and Rachel Hilson as Alex’s loyal best friend and campaign aide. A highlight of the movie (mild spoiler alert) is when Shahi searches Alex’s hotel room at the Democratic Convention and discovers his secret. Her hilarious (and relatable) reaction is the comedic payoff we’ve awaited since the start of the film.
The movie is not without problems. It’s too long, too simplistic, and too idealistic. It skims over the complexities of being gay in the public eye. It presents a naive view of American (and British) politics that is oddly out of sync with reality. But Red, White & Royal Blue gives a rare example of a mainstream Hollywood production that not only highlights a gay interracial couple but does not shy from, or sanitize, their passion. Further, the movie portrays Alex and Henry as heroes and role models, not as stereotypes, which sends a positive message of acceptance and inclusion not only for the LGBTQ community but for everyone with a heart. It’s also fun, romantic, and holds out hope. Red, White & Royal Blue is a movie that celebrates love in all its forms and invites us to imagine a better world.
Stephan Koplowitz is a director/choreographer and the author of On Site-Methods for Site-Specific Performance Creation (Oxford University Press, 2022) by day. By night he’s an avid cinephile.