Girls just wanna have fun. Except that in the film, A Royal Night Out, those two ladies are Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at ages 19 and 14, respectively. The film is a fun and warm-hearted historic romp that does feel like it’s being played a little too safe at times.
On V.E. Day (8 May 1945) it is said that these two princesses were reluctantly allowed out of the palace by their parents (played by Rupert Everett and Emily Watson). In this film by director, Julian Jarrold (Brideshead Revisited) this night involves: a confused bus trip, dancing the lindy hop, visiting a knocking shop and fraternising with the working girls, some drinking and even one dead horse. It’s all relatively reverent and benign stuff, especially in the case of her Majesty the Queen who is played by the accomplished, Sarah Gadon and presented as a conflicted young woman grappling with her desire for independence and the expectations for her to do the right thing as heir to the throne.
Margaret (Bel Powley) on the other hand enjoys cutting loose as “P2” or the second princess. She is giddy and flighty as she takes up with various caddish men, leaving her sister to have to keep up and find her along with the assistance of a white knight (read: a chivalrous, anti-establishment deserter airman named Jack (Jack Reynor)). The acting here is fine (although Powley is a little too over-the-top and cartoonish at times). The film is also beautiful and seems true to the period in terms of the costumes and the overall vibe, even if liberties have been taken with the actual story.
A Royal Night Out is a what-if scenario and light comedy that has a few things in common with A Roman Holiday. The pacing is energetic and bubbly for the most part, even if some aspects of it seem predictable. A Royal Night Out features some slapstick and some subtle humour plus lots of great, upbeat music (like swing, jazz and dancehall numbers). In all, it feels like a mischievous farce as two proper young ladies romp around and get up to hijinks with the great unwashed. It’s quaint, sweet and fun, darling.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
A Royal Night Out opens in Australian cinemas on May 14th.