I like bad movies. As a Jennifer Lopez fan, I’m not talking so-bad-it’s-good here, but rather films that know their limitations, do what they set out to do, and don’t let things like reality keep them from showing pretty people doing pretty things—even better, in my book, if the movie in question is playful with its politics, asking us to consider, say, a woman over 50 as a romantic lead or a same-sex love story.
Prime Video’s Red, White & Royal Blue succeeds on that front. It’s a rom-com based on a wildly popular romance novel of the same name. And it’s really going to enrage the folks mad about Barbie’s “woke” agenda because, like that pretty-in-pink film, Red, White & Royal Blue portrays its progressive politics with joy and fervor.
Plus there’s a whole plot line about turning Texas blue. It is a fantasy, after all.
The film follows Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the first woman president (played by Uma Thurman, doing a so-bad-it’s-funny Southern accent). Alex gets into an altercation with the “spare” British Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine, who also played prince opposite a Latina love interest in 2021’s Cinderella) and, as rom-coms do, these enemies become globetrotting lovers.
What follows is a lot of bad acting, beautiful lighting, wooden dialogue, and strong plotting in a film that glamorizes and normalizes two men falling in love. Red, White & Royal Blue is at times tender and at other times bawdy, giving its young lovers compelling emotional arcs even as it exalts in their sexiness.
And that’s where Red, White & Royal Blue really shines. This isn’t Brokeback Mountain, with gay men finding tragedy in self-hatred and limiting circumstances. Instead, audiences get two literal fairy tale plot lines: falling in love with a prince, on the one hand, and becoming one by rising from a modest home in Austin, Texas to the palatial White House.
That lightness puts us into the fantasy alternative universe rom-coms have inhabited through the decades—you know, the one where everyone’s apartment or house is beautiful, star-crossed lovers keep bumping into each other, and no meet-cute is too far-fetched.
Red, White & Royal Blue pulls off a pretty tough balancing act, celebrating its leading men’s sexiness without objectifying them. It doesn’t shy away from the mechanics of sex and how two young men might negotiate them, nor does it other those experiences either. Alex and Henry’s love scenes are sexy, romantic, heartfelt, and fun—all the things homophobes have been denying for ages, pretending like love somehow has a gender.
Then, to push it further, there’s the fact that Alex is Latino and the film makes sure nobody mistakes his identity. His dad calls him “mijo,” someone compliments his pestañas —they are impressive— there’s the Texas bit, and he gives a full-on speech about what it’s like “having a last name that ends in Z” in the United States.
Meanwhile, his prince looks on, exuding empathy but knowing he can never truly understand. And that’s not the only place Red, White & Royal Blue pokes at its characters’ privilege. They actually discuss it, recognizing their extreme positions in the world and more than nominally working to use their clout for good.
In this film, the problems are external to our central pair. There’s nothing wrong with their love and attraction, but there is something wrong with the Royal Family who sees their pairing as a PR problem to be fixed. And there is something wrong with a world that sensationalizes LGBTQ sexualities to the point of forcing people to come out before they’re ready.
But Red, White & Royal Blue doesn’t ascribe that bigotry to its world at large. Instead, Harry and Alex find acceptance and joy in their respective communities, creating a real happy ending.
It’s a, frankly, beautiful version of the world, and one I enjoyed visiting. Kudos to the people who bought the book in droves, prompting the demand for a motion picture. I’m not going to pretend like Red, White & Royal Blue has any Oscars in its future, but it is a delightful cultural moment and one that deserves to be watched, celebrated, and shared.
My guess is that Red, White & Royal Blue will be a financial success, even if its young stars are missing the press tour because the studios refuse to do the bare minimum for their workers. And with its success, I hope we get more gay, cross-cultural fairy tales.
We need them.
Cristina Escobar is the entertainment reporter for Latino Rebels. She is also the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade