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On her first blind date with Prince Harry (Murray Fraser), Meghan Markle (Parisa Fitz-Henley) downs a dirty martini, forces the fifth – now sixth – heir to the British throne to grovel for being late, and admits her feel-good flick is Love Actually. His is The Lion King, and if you mix their favorites together with a stiff pour of violins and a tabloid swizzle-stick, the concoction would be Menhaj Huda’s highly quotable Lifetime movie Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, a brain-numbing charmer best consumed in a group, or guiltily alone.
Like Love Actually, there’s cross-cultural infatuation, dramatic dashes through airports and an upending of British political conventions. As for the Disney cartoon, an African lion – possibly Diana’s blond maned resurrection, wagers the film – roars its approval for the princeling’s major life decisions: the afternoon he resolves to obey his mother’s advice to “be naughty”, the safari evening he first beds Miss Markle (“He Botswana-ed her,” jokes Burgess Abernethy’s Prince William) and the night he realizes this stubborn, fiercely independent American actor must become his future wife.
Harry & Meghan positions the pair as modern millennial aristocrats, both fully aware of paparazzi and public relations pressures long before their first kiss. Thanks to Markle’s seven seasons as feisty lawyer Rachel Zane on Suits, she’s already been living in a fishbowl for half a decade. Her boyfriend’s is merely fancier, perhaps a price she’s not willing to pay. The morning after they’re outed by the tabloids at a Halloween party where Markle’s costumed as Hillary Clinton, they roll over to answer their phones and groan, and when the paparazzi storm Meghan’s mother’s house, Huda films fists pounding on windows like a zombie invasion.
Can their crush withstand the media hordes? So far so good, though here she and Harry mostly bond over their combative senses of humor and scars from their parents’ divorces. When Meghan opens up about being raised biracial in Los Angeles, Harry likens her struggle to being a redhead in England. “What do gingers look forward to later in life?” he moans. “Gray hair.” It’s a goofy scene that stops a wink shy of implying one of two things: Harry has a lot to learn about hardship, and the real reason he hates his locks is because they link him to Princess Diana’s Irish lover James Hewitt.
Meanwhile, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, both younger than Markle, are portrayed as hopelessly stuffy and old, the end cap of a dynastic tradition that Harry and Meghan are excited to implode. Kate, who Laura Mitchell plays as calculating and perfectly coiffed, sighs that the divorced American “makes Wallis Simpson look like Dame Judi Dench”. Yet, she and the rest of the family observe how love ennobles her brother-in-law, who here has yet to outgrow his affection for bottle service champagne. Prince Charles’ (Steve Coulter) opening line is: “I’d hoped that after the Nazi uniform and stripping down to the family jewels in Las Vegas we were past all this.”
Yet Prince Charles understands that true love can’t be denied, only delayed until it becomes a scandal, and when he and Camilla quickly bless the union, Harry flushes: “You should have been able to be together from the start.” Beams Deborah Ramsay’s kindly Camilla: “But then you wouldn’t exist and the world would be a far less wonderful place.”
Needless to say, Terrence Coli and Scarlett Lacey’s script doesn’t have the royal stamp of approval. From that first date on, the private moments of their relationship are mostly make-believe, as is, presumably, Meghan’s mother’s panic that her daughter “gave the milk away for free”. (Huda restrains the couple to a deep hug and a hair sniff.) A villainous royal hanger-on who tsk-tsks the 36-year-old bride’s aging ovaries is a fictional amalgamation of the nastiest internet trolls, and when the twit reaches out to touch the biracial princess-to-be’s hair, Markle – and the audience – recoils. Yet, some of the dots on the timeline are all too true, like the offensive blackamoor brooch Princess Michael of Kent wore to one of Markle’s early palace luncheons, which the newspapers mused could be a racist dig. One hopes even the snidest courtier wouldn’t advise Harry to simply “enjoy some slap-and-tickle with a tarbrush in private”, as happens here – and for the record, the real Princess Michael apologized.
Murray Fraser’s Harry is less Prince Charming and more Bachelorette contestant. He’s just a nice guy in a tux trying to win the girl. Fitz-Henley’s radiant Markle does the emotional heavy lifting, breaking up with the globe’s most eligible man over and over until their power dynamic is equal. She’s terrific at capturing Markle as a grounded, grown woman terrified she’s about to destroy everything she’s built for herself. In one scene, Harry swoops her onto a dance floor, and Fitz-Henley’s face churns with conflicting emotions as Patsy Cline croons, “I’m crazy for loving you.” Lest we fret this ambitious feminist might be marrying Harry for his castles, her dialogue is punctuated with snappy clapbacks: “Glass ceilings, not glass slippers!” she whoops, and later: “My tower ain’t ivory, dude!”
Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance is engineered for sarcastic snickers. It lets Fitz-Henley and Fraser sell the audience on this history-making romance, while crowding the corners with tiny jokes: Harry’s distaste for his fiancee’s Californian avocado toast. A nervous royal publicist inquiring if Meghan did any “experimentation at uni”. Prince William’s World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug. Queen Elizabeth’s annoyance at the TV show The Crown. “I’m not sure why they have to make it while one’s still alive,” she huffs as a corgi barks in agreement. Harry and Meghan might agree. But it’s simpler just to follow Love Actually’s Hugh Grant’s advice, when he (the prime minister) and his assistant are caught snogging: “Smile. Little bow. And a wave.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance review – a brain-numbing charmer from Lifetime | Film