Until not so long ago, LGBTQ+ people had to grow up without positive and normalized referents on the screen. Fortunately, that has changed and we are currently living in a much more inclusive audiovisual (and literary) reality, in which there are more and more queer stories. In this new landscape of diversity, the romantic comedy is undergoing a very significant transformation, opening to the LGBTQ+ community the doors of a genre traditionally reserved for cishetero people. It goes without saying that not all queer stories should revolve around love, but that there are more and more romantic comedies of this type – good or bad – is nothing but good news.
Following in the footsteps of Netflix, which has given us things like ‘Heartstopper’, ‘Young Highnesses’ or ‘Single Until Christmas’, Prime Video premieres its own queer romantic comedy, ‘Red, White and Blue Bloods’, long-awaited adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s best-selling novel coming to streaming by award-winning playwright Matthew Lopez, who directs and co-writes the feature film. The film has become -at least on the Internet- a great LGBTQ+ event, and no wonder, because the story of Alex and Henry has conquered thousands of readers who are eager to see how their passionate love story gives the jump of the pages to the screen.
‘Red, white and blue blood’ is a fantasy in which the son of the President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Díaz, and the British prince Henry fall in love, a premise of which we have seen many variants in romantic cinema, but of course, not with two men. The book, and now the film, also adhere to a theme that fans of love stories like a lot, the ‘enemies to lovers’, to narrate the relationship between two young people who have a lot in common, but they take kill, until one day they realize that, surprise, they are falling for each other. It all begins with the two leading a “sweet” public altercation that threatens to damage the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, which causes the respective institutions to force them to fake a friendship to repair the situation. That friendship will become more and more real, evolving into a romantic and sexual relationship that both will have to keep secret.
The perfect Alex and Henry
Let’s start with the biggest success of the film: its casting. To bring the lovers to life, ‘Red, White and Blue Blood’ features two actors who couldn’t have been a better fit for their respective roles. From the first moment, Taylor Zakhar Perez (‘My First Kiss 2’, ‘Minx’) and Nicholas Galitzine (‘Cinderella’) they prove to be Alex and Henry, personifying the personality traits and voice of both characters in the novel. Perez exudes charisma on all four sides and stands out in the most comedic side of the character, which is quite present in the film, while Galitzine is a dramatic revelation, adding emotional weight to the story. Since the film focuses almost entirely on them, it was very important to choose the actors well, and in this sense, the adaptation wins.
Alex and Henry are always at the center of ‘Red, White and Blue Bloods’ and there are very few moments when one or the other or both do not appear on screen. But even so, the film has a notable supporting cast, including Rachel Hilson, ex-girlfriend and now friend of Alex and Claremont-Díaz of honor, scene stealer Sarah Shahi, White House chief of staff, and of course, Uma Thurman. who plays the president and Alex’s mother, Ellen Claremont-Diaz, with a slightly affected performance that will elicit unison chants of “mother!” In Internet; not forgetting Stephen Fry, who appears briefly as the King of England.
But back to what interests us most, Alex and Henry. A movie like this is nothing if there is no chemistry between its protagonists, and fortunately (and contrary to what some say), there is. It is seen in their looks, in their body language, in the moments of tenderness that bring them closer and reproduce that sensation so recognizable by queer people of secret love. The spark ignites from their first scene together, she jumps playfully in their first carnal encounters and ends up generating the flame in a central piece in which the film shows us something that we don’t usually see in mainstream cinema: an intimate scene that realistically depicts sex between two men.
And that is one of the great virtues of ‘Red, white and blue blood’. While it may seem rather light to some (this certainly isn’t ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’) and it’s true that most of the raunchy scenes cut off abruptly and conveniently before getting to the point, the film tackles the sexuality of Fifty Shades head-on. its protagonists, transmits their playful passion (saving the distances with the novel, which is much more explicit) and does not omit one of the main characteristics of Alex and Henry: they both want each other strongly, or what is the same, they are very horny all the time. This is what separates this film from other romantic comedies in which sex takes a very secondary place or is not shown, making its perspective when it comes to exploring the clichés of the genre fresher.
As an adaptation, however, ‘Red, white and blue blood’ does not end up coming to fruition. It is true that the film includes many iconic moments and passages that fans of the novel will immediately recognize and want to see again and again. But on the other hand, López has sacrificed important plots and characters to prioritize Alex and Henry at all times, completely killing key figures in the book such as the openly gay politician Rafael Luna or June, Alex’s sister, in addition to changing relationships or events in ways that are hard to justify. Anyone who hasn’t read the source material won’t miss these things, but even doing an abstraction exercise to separate them, there is something that does not work in the filmwhich makes evident the scissor work behind it and causes the story to progress a bit (quite) choppy.
This can be clearly seen in the relationship between Alex and Henry itself, which develops very quickly and barely leaves room for the story to breathe, thus making it difficult to connect. Although Perez and Galitzine do a wonderful job, their dynamics do not finish flowing as organically as they should (there is chemistry, as I said, but it lacks naturalness), evidencing a work of adaptation that knows how to capture the essence of the book, but fails to mold it with success of its structure to the feature film format, giving at all times the feeling that something is missing to take it a little further. Watching ‘Red, White and Blue Blood’, one can’t help but think that perhaps the adaptation would have worked better as a series, which would have allowed it to include nuances and characters that would have enriched it.
Of course, the worst of the film is not that, but its staging. On a technical and visual level, ‘Red, White, and Blue Blood’ isn’t that far from Hallmark, Lifetime, or Netflix rom-coms. It is obvious that Amazon has not spent much on the film, whose bill is quite close to that of a telefilm, with the occasional chroma that will make more than one person’s eyes bleed. It is not that I expected an investment at the level of a movie premiere with Julia Roberts and it was also clear that I was going to see a direct-to-streaming premiere, and not an Oscar movie; but the adaptation of a novel so loved by many people and with as much potential as this one deserved something more than being a TV movie of the week.
The romantic comedy comes out of the closet
For all of the above, adjusting expectations is key to enjoying ‘Red, White and Blue Blood’, a film that may not be what some of us had imagined, but which may be a dream come true for others. If we are clear about what we are seeing, it is easy to get carried away by the outpouring of charm of its protagonists and the irresistibility of their relationship. It may not be very good, but it plays its escapist role comfortably: entertains, is sexy and leaves you wanting to see your characters again.
Although the film places a lot of emphasis on sitcom, accentuating a humor that perhaps doesn’t have as much volume in the book, it also leaves room for emotion. And it’s quite candid, especially when it comes to Alex and Henry’s process of self-discovery, falling in love and conflict, two men trapped in a glass cage and conditioned by archaic norms that hinder the development of their true selves. Beyond how funny it is and the sighs that its protagonists will provoke, that is where the most valuable contribution of ‘Red, White and Blue Blood’ is, in its inspiring message about coming out of the closet and in its call to leave outdated norms behind and continue to fight for the rights and liberation of the LGBTQ+ community.
On paper (pun intended), ‘Red, White and Blue Bloods’ was ideal: A passionate romance between two attractive men belonging to traditional institutions, with touches of Jane Austen and ‘The Bridgertons’, and without fear of gay sex? ? Give me 10 hours. It is a pity that, in practice, the adaptation is harmed by its poor billing and adaptation problems that prevent it from reaching its full potential. Even so, there is no doubt that Alex and Henry will continue to fall in love with thousands of people on their jump to the screen, especially lovers of romantic comedy. And it is that, with its defects, ‘Rojo, blanco y sangre azul’ is a classic and innovative rom-com, a reflection of something very positive that helps us to look at proposals like this with more indulgent eyes and celebrate their existence: queer stories are no longer something weird or marginal. And the best thing is that, for this reason, not all of them have to be perfect.
The best: Its two protagonists, a clear case of casting magic. A very funny Sarah Shahi. How fun and sexy she is.
Worst: Tailoring seams are too noticeable. Its questionable visual invoice.