Nashville — “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston is a literary staple. It is beautiful, it’s funny and it's fluffy. But what differentiates it from any other rom-com book is its social commentary.
You have a queer boy of color with a passion for politics who is the son of a divorced, intelligent woman who just so happens to be the first female President of the United States. You have his two closest friends, both of whom are girls, who love and support him, but still call him out when needed. And, among others, you have the gay, romantic Prince who struggles with family legacy, loyalty and societal pressures.
Unfortunately, the new movie of the same name on Prime retains all the funny, light rom-com elements, but drops — not to put it too harshly — everything that made the book unique and took it so close to the reading community’s heart. Can you tell I was disappointed?
Don’t get me wrong, it was still a good movie. We laughed when they laughed and we cried when they cried. But in the book, I kept remembering those moments. We sobbed when they shed a single tear. We cackled when they giggled. We melted after the very first email.
The casting choices for Alex Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine) were perfect, don’t get me wrong. But where is his sister, June? Where is his best friend, Nora? June was completely cut out of the movie and Nora’s character was stripped to her barest bones. Nora became a mom-like business woman with little investment in what Alex does with his life. Nora is supposed to be a gorgeous, privileged, fun-loving genius. We don’t even get to see how smart she is except for one insignificant line. Alex’s struggles with his sexuality and the consequences of his relationship in career terms are absolutely absent, which makes his character fall flat. Not even Perez’s fantastic acting could save Alex from being a lovesick, uncomplicated boy who wants the Prince of England. Henry turns into a tragic character. When he finally speaks up, we don’t scream in delight. There is no understanding of the significance.
In the beginning, I mentioned that one of the most amazing parts of “Red, White & Royal Blue” was its social commentary. However, in this movie, the President, Ellen Claremont isn’t just not presented as the first female President, she is also still with her husband (who she is divorced from but on good terms with in the book) and makes less of a statement on motherhood and careers. Originally, she, in being a feminist icon, manages to be an excellent mother, and an excellent politician. We get none of that in this movie.
Also, the subtraction of Alex’s realization that he’s bisexual doesn’t just strip the movie of one of its essential elements, it also makes it make significantly less sense. There is no pity for Alex. He’s just a young, kind of snotty only-child in love.
The director did remark that he wanted to keep the focus on Alex and Henry. But as a friend of mine, Eliana, said, “(He’s missing) the whole point of the movie. It’s supposed to capture their entire lives. It’s not supposed to miss out on the ways they live.” I couldn’t have said it better. The book is about their lives — taking out any of the laughter, pain, family relationships, and social justice connotations takes out everything that makes this movie so special.
Moral of the story: It’s not a bad movie alone. If I had never read the book, I would give it 3.5 stars. But, as an adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s book, I definitely feel like it misses the mark. I don’t regret watching it as a lover of the book, but you would do yourself an injustice by only watching the movie and never reading the book. Good luck, happy reading, and happy watching!
Emmie Wolf-Dubin (she/her) is a high school student in Nashville who covers anything from entertainment to politics. Follow her on Instagram: @redheadwd07.
Edited by Nykeya Woods