Red, White & Royal Blue review: a wonderful rom-com

Nicholas Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar-Perez as Henry and Alex in Red, White & Royal Blue.
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Based on the book by Casey McQuiston, Red, White & Royal Blue is a brilliant rom-com with excellent performances from its two leads. 

The making of a good rom-com requires, above all else, an excellent central pairing with a palpable amount of chemistry. When it comes to Red, White & Royal Blue, based on the novel by Casey McQuiston that sees Alex, the son of the US President, fall in love with Henry, an English Prince, those characters need a big dose of complexity, too. 

In Taylor Zakhar Perez (who plays Alex) and Nicholas Galitzine (the film’s Henry) writer/director Matthew Lopez finds the perfect couple. There’s much to love about this adaptation, but none of it would work half as well if not for the astounding chemistry between these two leads and their fantastic delivery of the already smart and funny, but also emotionally vulnerable, script.

Alex and Henry don’t start out on such good terms, which is evident in the opening scenes. At a Royal wedding, the two of them get into a fight, knock over the comically oversized wedding cake, and end up smothered in it – with pictures appearing alongside carefully crafted puns on the cover of every tabloid. It’s a scene that relies heavily on physical comedy and the tension between the actors, but the wittiness of the screenplay soon starts to shine through.

Cut to the White House, where Democratic President Uma Thurman is giving Alex a telling off in a strong Southern accent. She demands that he travel straight back to England to publicly mend his relationship with Henry – something neither of them want to do. 

The first chunk of the film, then, is fuelled by Zakhar-Perez and Galitzine’s chemistry as they slowly transition from enemies to lovers. The tension between them is evident at all times, but each actor is also very gifted in their own right. Zakhar-Perez has genuine movie star charisma, and Galitzine provides layers of emotional depth to a Prince who’s not allowed to show his true emotions. The script manages to balance the character’s physical chemistry with their emotional connection, creating a very believable and sweet romance. 

The cast of Red, White & Royal Blue.

As their relationship (that’s secret out of necessity) develops, much of the humour stems from the antics that result from them trying to hide it. There are also a lot of smart and occasionally outrageous one-liners that make for a very fun experience. It’s a shame that this isn’t getting a theatrical release at all, because it would be a fabulous big screen watch. 

While the versions of the American Presidency and the Royal family are fictional, Red, White & Royal Blue is unafraid to get a bit political and to take some (often brutal) swipes at outdated institutions with outdated ideas. But it’s always done in a way that’s very tongue in cheek. The casting of the wonderful Stephen Fry in the role of the Royal’s homophobic head honcho, King James, drives this point home. It’s a brilliant paradox, and while Fry gets little screen time he’s extremely memorable. 

The unsung heroes of the movie are Sarah Shahi and Aneesh Sheth, whose characters both play important political roles and get some excellent comedic material to work with. It’s also notable (and very cool) that key political figures in the film, like the President and Prime Minister, are women. It’s a movie that’s very progressive in terms of representation.

Lopez is smart to keep the focus on Alex and Henry throughout the movie. The leads are magnetic together, and everything falls into place around them. Towards the end, the film allows itself to become a little bit preachy with its political points, but this is brief and doesn’t at all eclipse the fun, funny, and really wonderful romance at the heart of the story. We need more rom-coms like this.

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

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