The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


Reece Reads: The RWRB film debrief


What is the book of the century? What is the piece of the year? For others, it could be Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” or Morrison’s “Beloved,” but for me, it is none other than Casey McQuiston’s “Red, White & Royal Blue.”


For everyone outside of the infected Castilleja bubble, this summer was probably the first time they had heard of this novel. McQuiston’s “Red, White & Royal Blue,” which tells the love story between the first son of the United States and the Prince of Wales, was recently adapted into an original Prime movie, and I have thoughts. 


To preface, I want to say that my love for this novel has surpassed my ability to provide adequate critique. Instead, I will be comparing the novel to the movie and explaining what was cut, what was lost, and why it is, or is not, worth watching.


If it’s not already obvious, a spoiler warning is in effect, but because the plot is as predictable as Ms. Kauffman’s Founder’s Day speech (would have been), I don’t even think it’s necessary. 


Nonetheless, here is a plot breakdown for those who haven’t read the novel (yet… I will find you). The story centers around Alex, the First Son of the United States, and Henry, the Prince of Wales, as they navigate their budding relationship amid a tense political background filled with public intrigue and family drama. 


Alex, whose mother is up for presidential re-election, must be careful as he is scared to jeopardize both his mother’s campaign and his future political prospects. Henry’s situation, on the other hand, is like a calc test when you try to find the derivative of arctan(x): a bit more complicated than one would expect.  


When Henry was younger, his father died, leaving him in emotional distress. Due to that traumatic incident, his mother, the princess of England, withdrew from her children’s lives and completely shut down. This left Henry to rely on his siblings, Prince Philip and Princess Beatrice, for emotional support.


However, his siblings didn’t handle their father’s death too well either. His older brother, Philip, blocked out the whole emotional ordeal and became what the Brits would call “an arse.” Beatrice, his older sister, started partying, doing drugs, and was in an unhealthy downward spiral. Once, Bea was on the brink of overdose, and Henry came back from university to visit her and convince her to stop. 


In one very emotional scene in the book, Henry explains to Alex that he “sat down next to her and cried and told her she wasn’t allowed to kill herself because Dad was gone and [he] was gay and [he] didn’t know what the hell to do” (169). Henry’s conversations with his sister, his fraught relationship with his mother, and his complicated connection to the monarchy all show his emotional depth and character development throughout the novel. Without these moments, Henry would simply be a rich spoiled white guy with an accent, and Lord knows we already have too many of those, so these scenes are crucial. 


Although the monarch drama is kept in the film, the rest is cut, completely decimating Henry’s development. However, this was not the only cut the director made to the script. They also completely cut out the character June, who is Alex’s older sister. 


At this point, they might as well have been Hollywood plastic surgeons with the number of cuts they made. 


In the novel, June is a journalist, but she has trouble with finding work due to her mother’s obvious political affiliation. Her struggles with the public aspect of her new political role provide a lot of perspective for Alex. Most of the time, June doesn’t understand Alex’s urge to publicly come out as she is worried it will make his life unnecessarily difficult. 


Just as Henry’s relationships showcase his emotional depth, June brings out the same in Alex’s. She plays his devil’s advocate, but also roots for him when she can. She also voices one of the most famous lines from the novel,“Sometimes you have a fire under your ass for no good goddamn reason. You’re gonna burn out like this” (177).


June is an amazing character, and it was truly a heartbreaking moment when I found out she wouldn’t be in the movie. When I read the director’s reasoning for cutting June, I even became a bit angry. 


Now, I understand that not everyone wants to watch an eight-hour-long play-by-play movie rendition of “Red, White & Royal Blue” with no cuts. And I understand that I’m in the minority there. But when your reasoning for cutting June is because she was “not relevant to their love story,” that upsets me. If a director believes that June, Bea, and all of these “auxiliary” characters aren’t relevant to the love story, then they simply don’t understand the love story. I could go on and on about my problem with the director’s explanation, but for the sake of your sanity, and the data capacity on this website, I’m gonna leave it there.


But there is one more cut I simply must mention: the emails. Throughout the novel, Henry and Alex write these gorgeous emails to one another. These messages start platonic, and then, like childhood friends in a YA novel, they quickly turn romantic. They talk about anything and everything, spanning from what they did that day, to when they’ll next meet up, and their thoughts about life. 


Not only are these emails relevant because they eventually reveal their relationship to the world when they are leaked, but they are also relevant to me personally because they helped me get in the good graces of Dr. Ross in my Shakespeare class. 


For those who aren’t aware, these emails end in footnotes that contain quotes from historical lovers. One of these pairs of lovers was Pyramus and Thisbe. Now, Shakespeare, being the dramatic bard that he is, also references historical lovers, among them, Pyramus and Thisbe. So when this was brought up in our Shakespeare class and Dr. Ross asked the question, “Is anyone aware of Pyramus and Thisbe?” my hand went straight up. Thank you, Casey McQuiston. I’m getting those 4s. 


Now, despite my negative review of this adaptation so far, not everything was in vain. The cast list was absolutely stacked, and even had Uma Thurman play President Claremont with a southern accent. We got to hear her lecture her son about the benefits of PrEP while sitting in the Oval Office and eating pizza. Truly, a sight I’d never thought I’d see, but am so glad I did.  


However, in the film, I also got to see a man dive into a lake, wait underwater for five minutes, and then dramatically swim away in what is by far the worst breakup scene in cinema history. To add to this awkward moment, he was just a terrible swimmer, which made the whole ordeal really hard to watch. However, I do commend his effort to avoid the breakup by just swimming away and disappearing. Game recognizes game, and every Casti student knows the best way to deal with your problems is to avoid them. 


As a footnote to my line above, the cast list was only semi-stacked. Although the adults in the movie were played by legends such as Stephan Fry and Sarah Shahi, Alex and Henry were played by, I kid you not, Marco from “The Kissing Booth” and the prince from the Camila Cabello “Cinderella” remake. Let’s just say the acting styles did not match. To quote one of my classmates, the movie didn’t work because one actor thought he was in “Riverdale” and the other, “Call Me by Your Name.”


Overall, this movie was just okay. As someone who had read the novel before, I had prior knowledge of the storyline, the plot points, and the emotional aspects of the story. Without them, I would have been completely lost. With that said, I do not recommend this movie to anyone who has not read the book. I think it’s a decent addition to the pre-existing “Red, White & Royal Blue” canon, but it does not hold up on its own. 


Also, if it isn’t already clear, I do recommend the book. Together, I rate these stories three out of five C’s. The book provides the compassion and the content, while the movie only brings the cinema. Barely any, at that. Never mind, two-point-five out of five C’s. 


Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All Counterpoint Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *