Friday, April 12, 2024

Do the Changes in Red, White & Royal Blue Work?

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Major spoilers for Red, White & Royal Blue below.

When I first read the back cover for Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, I immediately set the book down. I mean, let’s be real, the first son of the United States falling in love with the Prince of England? Pish posh, hogwash. But then, I quickly got influenced by a friend who told me I just made the biggest mistake of my life. They were right. I read McQuiston’s tale of two nations in one night, work the next day be damned. I then read it again a week later. And again six months later. And then again three months later. Essentially, I became a superfan.

So, when I first learned of the Prime Video adaptation, my heart fluttered. The campy, sexy, and heartwarming romance was set to come to the screen. Directed by Matthew Lopez and starring Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz and Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry, my pulse kept quickening as the details came. Would the film live up to my love for the book? Would this story become my comfort book and movie? And, most importantly, would they change anything significant?

Spoiler alert, they did. The movie is a tight 118 minutes, and some of the juicy fat was left on the cutting room floor. Below, we break down some of the biggest differences between Casey McQuiston’s bestselling novel and the film.

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The Disappearance of June

In the novel, Alex’s sister June Claremont-Diaz serves as a vital voice of reason. She, Alex, and the Vice President’s granddaughter Nora Holleran make up the focus-group tested and beloved “White House Trio.” June is also an aspiring journalist and fashion icon, serving as fit inspo from the redwood forests to the gulf stream waters. In the movie, Nora, played by Rachel Hilson, assumes June’s responsibilities as Alex’s go-to girlie. The June Bug is exterminated and left out of the film, and sorely missed. Prince Henry, however, gets to keep his sister, Princess Beatrice, played by Ellie Bamber.

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

Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry, Malcolm Atobrah as Percy “Pez” Okonjo, Rachel Hilson as Nora Holleran, and Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz

Jonathan Prime

His Royal Highness, the King

This one’s pretty plain and simple. Much in line with recent developments in the British monarchy, Prince Henry’s royal grandparent is no longer the Queen but King James III, played by Stephen Fry.

The Stepdad-to-Just Dad Pipeline

Alex’s mom, President Ellen Claremont, played by Uma Thurman, is not divorced, which is a notable storyline in the novel. Instead, she is still married to Senator Oscar Diaz, played by Clifton Collins Jr., making the Claremont-Diaz crew a true political powerhouse with little to no family baggage. That, of course, means we don’t get to meet now former First Gentleman Leo Castalazzi, Alex’s stepdad in the book.

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Uma Thurman plays Ellen Claremont-Diaz

Jonathan Prime

Where Is Henry’s Mom?

Catherine, Princess of Wales, Henry’s mother, is noticeably absent from his life in both the film and the novel. While she is physically present in the book, according to Henry, she hasn’t mentally been the same since the death of actor Arthur Fox, Henry’s father. An outcast for marrying him, she has been on the monarch’s bad side for some time. It all comes to head at the end of the book when she stands up for Henry and Alex’s relationship. This does not happen in the film, and in the grand reckoning with the king, Prince Henry’s mother is nowhere in sight. It works, however, because there’s nothing more powerful than standing up for your one true love.

Prince Buttercup’s Robe is Missing

One of the best chapters in the book is when the White House Trio and Prince Henry’s crew (including his sister, Princess Beatrice, and his best friend, Percy ‘Pez’ Okonjo, played by Malcolm Atobrah) go to a karaoke club and have a wild night out (with a full-on tryst for the two main lovebirds in the bar’s bathroom). While we still get to experience Prince Henry’s carefree karaoke in the movie, it’s during the group’s trip to Texas instead. Thus, we miss out on the robes Pez curates for the friend group (with Henry’s saying “Prince Buttercup”) and the possible threesome between Nora, June, and Pez. Not just a small loss, but a HUGE one.

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Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry

Jonathan Prime

Alex’s Sexual Discovery

It’s hard to have an identity crisis in an hour-and-a-half film that also needs to tackle American politics, cute kissing, and long withstanding traditions in the British monarchy. So, while Alex struggles with his sexuality in the book and calls his former high school best friend whom he hooked up with…in a straight way…to discuss his inner turmoil, he quickly comes to realize his bisexuality in the movie. It makes sense, as this is not a coming out story; it’s a story of love that transcends the Atlantic Ocean.

Miguel Ramos Replaces Senator Luna

Independent Senator Rafael Luna is a major figure in Alex’s personal and political journey in the book. As Alex’s mentor and confidant, the whole first family is shocked when Senator Luna joins the campaign of the opposing Republican candidate, Jeffrey Richards. By the end of the book, it turns out that was all a scheme to get Claremont reelected, and Luna is forgiven by the family and all is well. In the movie, Luna is erased and journalist Miguel Ramos, played by Juan Castano, serves as the chaos agent. He is also a former love interest of Alex, something Luna was not, and Alex’s first queer sexual experience.

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Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex Claremont-Diaz and Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry

Jonathan Prime

It’s Not So…Hot N’ Heavy

For a book with sex scenes that made my face turn tomato red, the movie is rather tame. While McQuiston’s steamy chapters go into glorious detail, the movie cuts some raunchy moments and condenses others. (For instance, Henry and Alex having sex in spite of the royal family, a moment that made my blood pressure rise to concerning levels, is glossed over.) The book is so hot this sentence was needed: “Alex makes a mental note to figure out which shadowy gay noble taught Henry all this and send the man a fruit basket.” So, only one moment of nudity? Only short montages? Very little dirty talk? This is shocking for a rather horny book, and it almost makes the movie’s “R” rating feel more “PG-13.” Director’s cut when?

Red, White & Royal Blue is streaming on Amazon Prime. Watch Now

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Samuel Maude

Samuel is the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at ELLE Magazine. His interests include music, theater, books, video games, and anything to do with Taylor Swift. He famously broke both his arms at the same time in fourth grade. 

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