There’s nothing wrong with Red, White and Royal Blue that couldn’t be fixed with a switch to a limited series format, a good script doctor, a recast featuring Michael Cimino as Alex and a younger actor as Henry, the buildout of side characters, the re-addition of ejected subplots, breaking up the parents again, fewer green screens, someone on staff who understands American politics and of course, more scenes of David.

I actually came off watching this last night excited, perhaps just from exhaustion. There were a lot of things I was ecstatic about. I actually liked TZP and Galitzine’s performances, for what the story allowed, and thought they had great chemistry (so no hate to them despite my recasting suggestion!). I never thought Amazon would air sex scenes that explicit or tender — kudos. Or the close-up shots of Henry’s butt in the saddle during the polo match. I though the way they depicted Alex and Henry communicating through texts and phone calls was as stroke of genius (though I’m sure someone smarter than me will point out that’s been done before) and wished I’d seen so much more of it. I laughed out loud at many lines, including “Little Lord Fuckleroy” and the exchange "They can't keep you locked away forever." "We REALLY need to get you a book on English history."

But all that said, in the cold light of day, I am forced to agree with pretty much everything you said. Much of it probably could have been fixed just by going to a miniseries format and upping the budget a little to match.

I want to point to Heartstopper as an example of a well-adapted romantic work. But that’s a graphic novel with simple plots, you argue. Fair. So I point you to Normal People, which was adapted from a novel and made me care about a het couple, and let me tell you that is no small feat.

It can be done. With thought and care, it can be done.

I mean, I’m gonna watch RWRB again. But I’ll be imagining how much more it could have been.

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Hmmm. I agree 100% that RW&RB would have worked much better a miniseries. There's plenty of story in the book, and I did miss a lot of the same things that you did. But if you overlook that and focus on how well the adaptation works as a two hour movie, I'd say it's a qualified success. I admired the efficiency of the first half of the movie, even if I wish some of the early scenes between Alex and Henry had been given more time to breathe. It wasn't until the second hour when things started to come off the rails. Having no subplots meant that there was nothing else to do after breaking the boys up but to immediately get them back together. It was just kind of frenetic and silly.

I had two other big complaints: One, it just looked cheap. Maybe it's because I rewatch the West Wing endlessly, but those White House sets were dire. Two, like you I don't understand the choice to age up the characters*. This is not a teenage romance, but a lot of what makes it work is seeing Alex and Henry as very young adults just starting to figure out their place in the world. I thought Galitzine did a better job of selling Henry as someone who would be having these experiences than Perez did with Alex.

Given that they didn't have time for Liam as a character, I actually liked the way Alex copped pretty easily to having those experiences in high school and to the fling with the reporter. Something may have been lost by not letting us see Alex struggle with his identity more, but I don't think it's nothing that they make it explicit that Alex is into guys in general; it's not just a romcom kosher thing for princes. And I think the frankness with which the movie depicts intimacy between two men (and the discussions before and after) is a bigger win than you are giving it credit for.

When it comes to the politics I don't know. The Luna character was appealing in the book but I never really bought the role he played in the presidential campaign. And making Richards a predator and hypocrite, while far from unprecedented, felt kind of pat. I'm also just not sure I believe that a real-life Alex coming out would necessarily be a big deal politically. The Democratic party is a big tent and contains its share of homophobes, but only a subset of that subset care enough about that issue to influence their vote. I don't know the numbers (I bet Nora does!), but I suspect that in world in which Uma Thurman is President her bi son could come out without worrying too much about the electoral math.

* Seriously, they couldn't find any 22 year old actors? Are they all too busy playing 15 year olds?

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I *loved* the novel and I liked the movie, but granted, I read the novel four years ago and barely remember the nuances. I think what I missed most was June and what you highlight about Alex not having inner turmoil about his experiences with Henry. As someone who didn't realize until her mid-20s that she was very, very queer, I really like stories where "straight" characters realize they're not so straight after all. So a good movie, but a bad adaptation. I'd rather have this than nothing, if only for how charming Galitzine was.

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I've worked on political campaigns in the past, so the original book's depiction never did much for me. And I frankly expected the movie to sand off the edges to make it palpable to the largest audience possible. I didn't expect them to just rip it out root and stem. Especially with the LGBTQ community facing more attacks than they have in years it just feels irresponsible.

Agree 100% that the real botched job is removing Alex's own journey of self-discovery. It is baffling to me that all of that material is just... gone. Frankly baffling.

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Wasn't going to watch this and have not read the book, but I enjoyed the critique.

Also, with respect to

"Lopez is actively sticking to the WGA’s guidelines and only discussing his directing work in interviews, but I admittedly am not hopeful for satisfying answers once the AMPTP gives writers a fair deal."

I know what you mean, but I just want to say, I don't see the last part of your sentence ever happening., A marginally less unfair deal is more realistic.

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Oof, thanks for this. I likewise loved / over-identified with the novel, and had some of the same reservations about how this adaptation would go. Too bad to hear it was as disastrous as this, but at least you've spared me the hours of watching it for myself.

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