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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Review: ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ is a feel-good film with Wattpad flair

From diplomats to lovers — the story you didn’t know you needed.
Shea Carlberg
After donating a copy of their book to the LGBTQ+ collection in the Library of Congress, author Casey McQuiston spoke to die-hard fans leading up to the book’s film adaptation premiere.

Standing just feet away from some of the nation’s most-lauded literary works, “Red, White & Royal Blue” author Casey McQuiston framed the often-mocked genre of romance as a powerful tool to “meet yourself” in places other genres cannot intimately probe.

The best-selling author said that they were happy to share moments of vulnerability that romance inspires with people who enjoy their work.

Fans have been gushing about “Red, White & Royal Blue” on BookTok, the book review corner of TikTok, since the story came out in 2019. The book’s hashtag has since garnered more than one billion views on the social media app.

McQuiston’s political rom-com has now taken the world by storm, with last month’s film adaptation of the novel topping streaming charts. The book itself was recently inducted into the Library of Congress, honoring the fawned-over pink cover that has captured the hearts of endless young book lovers.

After donating a copy of their book to the LGBTQ+ collection in the nation’s library, McQuiston spoke to die-hard fans leading up to the book’s film adaptation premiere Aug. 11. The Library’s Chief Communications Officer Roswell Encina interviewed McQuiston, who highlighted escapism as an immediate pull for this book due to a timely release of 2019.

The quirky rom-com follows the forbidden love between Alex Claremont-Diaz, the first son of the United States, and Prince Henry, the second in line to the throne of England. By focusing on fictionalized versions of iconic political roles between two countries with a history of bad blood, “Red, White & Royal Blue” weaves a diplomatic fantasy world for the ages. 

The setup unfolds with Alex, a wild child to his core, embarking on a mission to salvage relations with Great Britain while grappling with the budding affection between himself and Prince Henry. With a humorous touch, engaging performances and the undeniable charisma of Uma Thurman as President Ellen Claremont — Alex’s mother — the film navigates the tumultuous waters of romance and politics, albeit with a dash of Wattpad flair. From longing looks across ballrooms to thinly veiled innuendos, the film screams of a classic Y/N format.

The film caters to its young target audience with the perfect recipe: a sprinkle of humor, a dash of southern charm courtesy of Uma Thurman’s accent and some form of alternate reality where the United States is ruled by a female Democratic president from Texas. The film also references the District’s landscape through nods to Georgetown Law School and Shaw coffee shops.

Watching this film during a premiere in D.C. was a communal experience as the audience delighted in these nods, laughing heartily and basking in the familiarity of these allusions to D.C. But the humor won’t be lost to viewers outside the District; any audience member streaming it on Amazon Prime can enjoy the comedy. While the story features the classic enemies-to-lovers trope, it’s also notably specific to Gen Z romantic experiences, incorporating everything from flirty Snapchats to the characters’ openness with mental health struggles.

Alex, portrayed by Taylor Zakhar Perez, is not always an easy character to root for. His obsession with his “working class” background became over the top when he was oblivious to how his partner may have struggles of his own. Prince Henry obviously grew up basked in privilege from the very start, but it is exactly that privilege that prevents him from coming out to this family.

While Alex’s physical appeal is undeniable, his personality felt one-dimensional, overly confident and in need of a humbling. His actions often lacked depth and empathy. Despite being just a college student, he believes he’s deciphered the formula for securing his mother’s reelection and reshapes the campaign strategy, even though his input wasn’t sought after.

Another of the film’s minor pitfalls lies in its pacing. There were moments where the story could have reached its happy ending earlier, leading to a tighter narrative. Rather than finish on a powerful moment just after Henry comes out to his subjects on a balcony, with Alex at his side, the film extends into an additional scene in which the pair go to Alex’s childhood home in Austin, likely in an effort to set up an opening for a sequel.

“Red, White & Royal Blue” fits comfortably into the category of a sweet and feel-good movie. It serves as the perfect companion for background entertainment while tackling other tasks, such as homework or studying. Its shallowness, often a conceit of the rom-com genre, doesn’t detract from its overall enjoyability.

This rom-com wears its heart on its sleeve, delivering an engaging cocktail of romance, humor and political intrigue. While not without minor quirks and missteps, the movie succeeds in serving up a delightful, albeit sometimes predictable, concoction.

McQuiston described their gratitude for the film’s lead actors, Nicholas Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar Perez, whom they got to meet and develop a relationship with while on set. McQuiston said Galitzine and Perez took the book into their own hands through creative advertising efforts and Perez who read the novel up to six or seven times, before rehearsals.

“This could not happen to two better people,” McQuiston said.

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