Red, White, and Royal Blue: The RomCom Is Back and It’s Queer!
Aug 16, 2023   •   Eli Magsaysay
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Aug 16, 2023   •   Eli Magsaysay
Romcom has been trying to make a comeback the past couple of years with some of its most iconic leads: JLo in License to Wed, Reese Witherspoon in Your Place or Mine, and even Julia Roberts in Ticket to Paradise tried. But while these queens’ mere presence did rekindle the audience’s excitement for the crowd-favorite genre, the reviews and box office returns of these efforts didn’t exactly scream success.
And then comes Red, White, and Royal Blue. Matthew Lopez’s anticipated adaptation of the Casey McQuiston bestseller about the bickering beautiful boys from Buckingham Palace and the White House has just premiered a few days ago on Prime Video and is now the #1 movie on the streaming service worldwide. And if the reviews and fan reactions are any indication, I think it’s safe to say that the gays just succeeded in finally bringing romantic comedy back.
After a messy viral moment that may cause his mother’s reelection bid, not to mention his country’s relationship with the UK, USA’s first son, Alex, is forced to spend time with UK’s Prince Henry to sell a friendship they never had to the media. Pretend quickly turns into something real, however, as their connection becomes an attraction too strong to ignore.
Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry Fox are played by Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine respectively. While, of course, the internet is still at odds about whether they’re Marlon Brando talented, the fan response and hype around the film is enough to claim that they did a sufficient job at their parts. They make Alex and Henry’s bickering so fun to watch and even more, fun to watch them grapple with their feelings for each other and hide their relationship with the people around them and the media.
I personally thought the confrontation at the climax could use a couple more takes and some directorial tweaks, but I was already far too invested in them for this hiccup to ruin the viewing experience. Besides, the most important thing about a romance is to sell a couple’s chemistry, right? For us to believe these people are right for each other? And in that regard, Alex and Henry passed the test with flying colors right out of the gate.
Alex and Henry’s witty banter got so many golden moments that we just haven’t seen from romcoms in a long time. Even the supporting cast, most notably Sara Shahi’s Zahra, got a lot of zingers, and ah, what a joy to see it back! Calling your erection Big Ben and His Royal Hardness? “I will Brexit your head from your body”? We don’t always need Oscar-worthy dialogue, okay? Sometimes we just need to laugh and be entertained and that’s perfectly fine!
The movie certainly deserves props for love scenes that showcase how sexy, beautiful, and romantic intimacy between men can be. Seeing the physical intimacy between Alex and Henry, from its most casual displays to the most drawn out and choreographed, is a much-needed change of scenery in a media landscape that hesitates to depict tenderness and desire but isn’t bothered by flagrant displays of violence between men.
First of all, brilliant casting. I don’t know whether it’s because of how hard she served in Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, et cetera, but Uma Thurman’s presence somehow made the movie even gayer. Actually, and I hope I don’t get jumped for saying this, even in a film where gay men are having sex she somehow managed to be the gayest thing about it.
Ellen’s immense presence is a testament to Thurman’s power as a seasoned actress, but it’s in a surprisingly tender moment that we see her shine the most. Let’s just say you may need a pizza for that.
Speaking of brilliant casting: when we talk about gay British actors, Stephen Fry is the first that comes to mind. So imagine how gagged I was to learn that he’s playing the King of England here? And as for how he does in the role, let’s just say you’ll probably see clips of him pronouncing “homosexual” in his own queer way all over Twitter now.
RWARB’s politics may be too idealistic for some. A female, democrat US president from the south? A monarch barely lifting a finger to stop his grandson from coming out? Still, to say that the film completely skirted around realities faced by queer people would be unfair, considering this is about a couple whose forced coming out is global news. Besides, there should be merit in presenting the alternative, in manifesting a better way to exist, right? In that case, RWARB’s gift is recognizing that the world still has a problem with queerness, but asserting its right to take up space anyway. As we always have and should.
With its snappy script, aspirational politics, and the explosive chemistry of its leads, Red, White & Royal Blue is an entertaining, endearing, and earnest two-hour fare. It is the most effective romantic comedy we’ve seen in a long while and, yes, we will be rewatching it!
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