The words “inspired by true events” have become a staple in the film industry in the recent years. Mainly thrown around during Oscar season, there is always a divide in whether the story told is a true representation of facts or the story has been amped up for the movies (American Sniper being the main one in recent years). A Royal Night Out is definitely based on a true story, yet it seems to have had the latter approach given to it in the story department.
A Royal Night Out is about Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Princess Margaret (Bel Powley), who on VE Day left Buckingham Palace and celebrated with the masses in London. The film also stars Rupert Everett as King George and Emily Watson as the Queen Mother and Jack Reynor as an RAF pilot named Jack.
Films like these are the hardest to write reviews about, because there is nothing to it. There is nothing that makes it stand out, be it good or bad. A Royal Night Out is a safe, middle brow quasi-comedy, it’s 21 And Over re-skinned with the trappings of Downton Abbey and the Royal Family. Either way let’s at least try.
A Royal Night Out is based on the fact that on VE Day, both princesses left the palace to mingle with everyone who is partying on the streets, and seems to be the only resemblance to the idea that the film is “inspired by true events”. Unless both princesses went on a round-about tour of London, complete with visits to iconic landmarks and the odd Soho brothel, I guess most of the story is not factually correct. The story points, filled with misunderstandings and races to find people in crowds will seem clichéd to several viewers. Within the first ten minutes you can tell where the film will be going (including the heavy handed message of the massive divide in the class system), making the quite short run time of 97 minutes feel a lot longer.
The acting on all fronts is varying levels of high class pantomime. It’s nice to see Rupert Everett perform in anything, but he, along with Emily Watson, Bel Powley and Sarah Gadon do a strong comedy caricature of the Royal accent. Everyone else in the film seem to be rejects from the musical Oliver! overflowing the film with Cockney impressions. These two polar opposites, the upper and working class, seem to be according to the film the only two distinctions in London. Jack Reynor fares a little better, with only a hint at a working class accent, even if it does fluctuate a bit.
As a jazz fan I did like the score, filled with several big brassy numbers and walking bass underscores. Being a film set during World War Two, it does include Glen Miller’s masterpiece In The Mood and Tuxedo Junction, making it a joy to see a few of the dance numbers in the film. There was one part of the film where the film did touch on something above its station, which was pleasant to see. Princess Elizabeth is discussing with the RAF pilot Jack (who is a needless romantic subplot) about whether she wants to ascend to the throne. Sarah Gadon’s soliloquy here is nice, filled with youthful desire of escaping to Paris, seeing the sights of the Eiffel Tower and Luxembourg Gardens and to be a normal person instead of being waited on hand and foot every day. This could have been a good running plot throughout the film, but the film only really brings it up at the end of the film.
To continue talking about the previously mentioned needless romantic subplot in the form of Jack, the film does eventually capitalise on this, but doesn’t show it. The camera instead pans to the side, before coming back a few seconds later. A message to director Julian Jarrold, if you are going to pay off an entire subplot you’ve been plying us with for the entire film, at least have the conviction to show us it instead of cutting away.
In summary, A Royal Night Out isn’t a bad film. That said, there is nothing that elevates it to a film you could watch on a lazy evening, let alone a film you must watch.
Score: 3/10 You will watch it and forget about it in a day.