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Red, White & Royal Blue review: paint-by-numbers queer romcom disappoints

Rival hunks Henry and Alex meet, bone, develop feelings, breakup, and experience all the typical romcom events in Prime Video's Red, White & Royal Blue.

Queer romance stories are, happily, becoming more and more mainstream nowadays. From Heartstopper, The Last of Us, and Our Flag Means Death, to Heartbreak High, In Our Blood and Of An Age, it’s evident we are in a golden age of LGBTQIA+ storytelling.

But with an explosion of new queer content comes the inevitable cash-grab from streamers and studios wanting to keep up with the latest trend. Red, White & Royal Blue is one such example – a Hallmark-esque gay love story about a fictional Prince of England (the spare, not the heir to the throne) and the son of the US President hooking up in various soft-porn inspired trysts.

Love and Lust

Red, White & Royal Blue, a feature-length adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s New York Times bestselling novel, is the sort of movie you’d expect from straight people who desperately want to let you know they’re OK with the gays – and even more so if those gays happen to be hot and hunky. In other words there’s a lot of posturing about gay rights, bi rights and trans rights, which all feel like a lecture from a youth pastor on his last attempt to reach the kids.

Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the first woman President of the US (Uma Thurman, in a performance that can only be described as “what?”), and the UK’s Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) hate each other’s guts – until they realise that feeling isn’t hate, it’s love … or at least, a powerful lust. From a disastrous meet-cute at a royal event in which both men end up on the floor and covered in cake, to a rushed confession after being shoved into a storeroom together (it’s so tight in there! Oh!), the script hits all the typical rom-com beats. They hook up, develop stronger feelings, break up and (spoiler) come back together again.

The only difference to those aforementioned Hallmark rom-coms here is the addition of two coming out scenes. These moments are sweet but corny, and while not stereotypical of the rom-com genre, they certainly are of any queer screen story. It’s a real paint-by-numbers narrative, right down to the finale.

The characters simply aren’t well-rounded enough to capture our hearts. And while Perez and Galtizine do their best with their clunky lines, there isn’t enough chemistry between them to light a match. It’s just cringey.

Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry, Malcolm Atobrah as Percy Okonjo, Rachel Hilson as Nora Holleran and Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz in Prime Video’s Red, White & Royal Blue.

Full-bodied cringe

I can endure cringe, but only to a certain point. When Alex and Henry have their star-crossed lovers moment on the dance floor set to Flo-Rida’s ‘Low’, and everyone ducks down to squat on the floor while the two broody, pouty-lipped and perfectly sculpted men gaze at each other, I wanted to barf.

And then there’s the sex. It’s hot and steamy, I won’t deny it. The actors are incredibly fit and incredibly hairless. But the dialogue is terrible. It’s like ChatGPT was asked to write a script by scraping data from PornHub. No one can get horny to that.

Red, White & Royal Blue marks the feature film writing and directing debut of Tony Award-winning playwright Matthew López. His play The Inheritance, set in New York three decades after the height of the AIDS epidemic, was called ‘the most important American play of the century’ by The Telegraph. It’s thus clear his strengths lie in writing for the stage. But not all blame for Red, White & Royal Blue can be placed on the director when so much of its narrative and dialogue comes directly from the on which book it is based.

At best, it’s mildly appealing, smutty fanfiction. A single scene with Stephen Fry towards the end elevates it somewhat due to his star power and undeniable gravitas – I’ll give it one star for that. But Prime Video’s blatant efforts in Rainbow Capitalism don’t fool me.

Red, White & Royal Blue premieres on Prime Video Australia on Friday 11 August 2023.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports