Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Published: May 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Red, White, & Royal Blue directed by Matthew Lopez
Released: August 11, 2023 on Amazon Prime
The Plot (Prime Video):
Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez), the son of the first woman President of the United States (Uma Thurman), and Britain’s Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) have a lot in common: stunning good looks, undeniable charisma, international popularity…and a total disdain for each other. Separated by an ocean, their long-running feud hasn’t really been an issue, until a disastrous—and very public—altercation at a royal event becomes tabloid fodder driving a potential wedge in U.S./British relations at the worst possible time. Going into damage control mode, their powerful families and respective handlers force the two rivals into a staged “truce.” But as Alex and Henry’s icy relationship unexpectedly begins to thaw into a tentative friendship, the friction that existed between them sparks something deeper than they ever expected. Based on Casey McQuiston’s critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Red, White & Royal Blue marks the feature film writing and directing debut of Tony Award-winning playwright Matthew López (The Inheritance).
Torrie’s Movie Review & Comparison:
This movie had very few redeeming qualities. It did move fast, and didn’t feel anywhere near 2 hours, which I am thankful for. Otherwise, it fell flat in every way possible.
One of the first notes I wrote down about the movie was that it feels like a lifetime movie. It was overacted, there was too much telling and not enough showing, it was watered down, and generally too perfect and shiny. This has little to do with a book comparison, this is just a poorly directed movie. There is an attempt to make the movie very relevant, but most of the pop culture references are a miss (I cringed when Alex said “Mofo”). I did enjoy the Brexit reference though.
Now, when I finished the book 26 hours ago, I realized that there was no way 418 pages could be easily adapted into a fantastic movie. I knew it would be really hard to get the best parts of the book into the movie, because nuance and details were the best part of the book, but those are the first to go when translating a book to a movie. The biggest difference in my opinion is June, or lack thereof. June just doesn’t exist in the movie, Alex is an only child. I thought they’d make Nora into a bigger character to take June’s place, but Nora quickly fell into the background early on.
I loved June and Alex’s relationship in the book, she cared about her brother and would do anything for him. Two major points were missed in the movie because June didn’t exist. First, there was never an original leak to the media about Alex and Henry when June covered for them. This entire plot was skipped. I thought this was such a good storyline in the book, I was sad to see it missing, it really helped the reader understand Henry’s perspective on his future and options. Secondly, and more seriously, June had better insight on the life of a politician and parent than Alex did – and she took the time to make sure he was making thoughtful decisions about his future. Her understanding of their parents was really insightful. Oh! And the movie kept Alex’s parents together, they were still married, his dad was barely in it.
Additionally, Alex and Henry’s characters (and later their relationship) aren’t fleshed out enough. Alex is an annoying asshole at the start of the movie, instead of the interesting asshole he is in the book. This actually is really different. I enjoyed reading about Alex, even if he seemed immature and cocky, but I didn’t like watching him in the movie. It was very superficial. The movie missed an opportunity to further showcase Alex and Henry as people when they skipped the Star Wars scene (and all references). The best part of the book was when Alex compared the Henry he knew to the profile sheet and realized it was all a lie. That was the moment that Henry was humanized for me. As for their relationship, there is plenty of smut in the book, but it is balanced with their true friendship. The friendship and all other aspects of their relationship are sorely missed in the movie, leaving it flat and one note. It’s challenging to understand how this is “forever” love when their relationship has such little substance other than sex.
I was really frustrated that the movie had Alex give the press conference confirming the relationship without even talking to Henry! I found that to be really disrespectful to Henry, it would affect Henry’s future more and he deserved a say about it. In the book, Alex changed through their relationship. He saw and began to understand Henry, he showed Henry respect. The scene in the book where they ask each other if they want to tell the truth at the same time was so sweet, the movie missed an opportunity there.
I think Miguel the journalist was supposed to take the place of Senator Luna and also Liam. This missed the mark for me as well. Senator Luna was a fantastically written and complex character. Miguel was kind of sketchy – if he hooked up with Alex on the campaign trail, Alex was only 18 then (at least book Alex was). While Senator Luna’s story was wrapped up a bit too quickly in the book, it added a really interesting layer to the book.
The politics of the book are what made it more than just a solid romance novel, the political background and the detailed lives of the characters made it relatable and hard to put down. So much was wrong with this movie, I am just disappointed.