By: Shahbaz Khayambashi
What do you get when you mix together the worst parts of modern royalsploitation, teenage “girls just wanna have fun” cinema, and a hint of “war is bad, but support the troops”? Julian Jarrold’s insipid A Royal Night Out, the sort of imperialistic romantic comedy that would turn a hopeless romantic into a hardened cynic!
Once the second world war ends, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed to go out into general London and celebrate with the people, as long as they are incognito and with chaperones. Through a series of wacky misunderstandings, they both end up separated from their chaperones and wandering the streets of London – Margaret going wherever and with whomever she pleases, while Elizabeth gets help from an airman in order to find her sister. The next hour or so consists of trite jokes (at one point, roofies are played for laughs), forced romantic notions, and generally anachronistic situations to make the royals look more human and less wretched; all filmed in a beautiful, yet absolutely empty style-over-substance way.
Despite all of this, the film’s biggest crime isn’t even this exploitation of royalty, but the awfully maudlin score, which always comes into play like a drunk relative offering his opinions on the latest controversial matter. The score is obsessed with making its presence known, making the whole process even more infuriating.
Of course, even the most awful film has rays of sunshine. Sarah Gadon, as Elizabeth, is a delight as always and Bel Powley’s turn as Margaret is absolutely adorable. And, since this is a British royal film, you also get many of the mainstays of British cinema showing up in bit parts (including decent turns from the likes of Emily Watson, Rupert Everett and Ruth Sheen). Unfortunately, none of these performances are enough to save the film because there is nothing to be saved. This bit of speculative fiction would have served better to be scrapped in favour of something more modern and progressive. Enough with the royals; they are an outdated concept!
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam