taylor zakhar perez as alex claremont-diaz (left) and nicholas galitzine as prince henry (right) in red, white & royal blue

Jonathan Prime/Prime Video

‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ is a solid romance—but a lot is left on the cutting room floor

The results are decidedly mixed (and your view might differ on whether you’ve read the bestselling novel).

 

Michelle Jaworski

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Analysis

Between Netflix’s Heartstopper, MUBI’s Passages, and now Prime Video’s Red, White & Royal Blue, it’s already been a great month for queer TV and cinema

One is as wholesome as can be. Another is sensual and chaotic, with its character-driven sex scenes leading to the MPA giving it an NC-17 rating (a move that director and co-writer Ira Sachs slammed as “a form of cultural censorship”). The third? It falls somewhere in the middle, offering a sweet romance that’ll sweep viewers off their feet while trying to grapple with the messy world of politics and the public face of a royal institution.

The results are decidedly mixed (and your view might differ on whether you’ve read Casey McQuiston’s bestselling novel), but it’s still a perfectly enjoyable ride.

RWRB, directed by Matthew López (The Inheritance) and co-written by López and Ted Malawer, charts the rivals-to-lovers romance between Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) and FSOTUS (First Son of the U.S.) Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez). The duo is forced to spend time together and pretend they’re friends after causing an “international incident” at a royal wedding, but bubbling sexual tension—and Alex’s discovery that he’s bisexual—evolves into love.

But their love for one another has the potential for international ramifications: Alex’s mother (Uma Thurman), the first female U.S. President, faces a tough reelection, while Henry’s part of a royal tradition that would rather him suppress every aspect of who he is than let him openly live as a gay man. (An obscene Texas drawl from Thurman also makes itself known.)

McQuiston’s novel, which was published in 2019, was already a major hit well before Amazon brought it to our screens. It’s big on BookTok, where videos using hashtags linked to the book have gotten hundreds of millions of views; one has nearly a billion views while #rwrbmovie, for the film adaptation, has nearly half a billion views alone. So expectations were high, to say the least.

It’s an uneven approach between cutting out several side characters and combining others, flattening the richness of its protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, and attempting to simplify its messy and already dated politics. But it’s strongest when it focuses on Alex and Henry, which doesn’t shy away from depicting the physical aspects of their relationship—and, for some viewers, it’s also a learning experience.

The rest of the film suffers due to that hyper-focus, but when a single GIF of Perez and Galitzine can spark a Rorschach-esque examination of intentions, you know it’s got something good. 

Why it matters

While some queer films and shows are monumental for viewers, not all of them have to be. Sometimes, you can have a movie that’s just fun.

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