DIR: Julian Jarrold • WRI: Trevor De Silva, Kevin Hood • PRO: Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae • DOP: Christophe Beaucarne • ED: Luke Dunkley • DES: Laurence Dorman • MUS: Sarah Gadon, Emily Watson, Rupert Everett
A Royal Night Out is the latest film from Julian Jarrold, and continues his tradition of making some of the most quintessentially British films to hit a cinema. His first huge success was Kinky Boots, a film about British drag queens and shoemakers which dealt with the issue of Britain’s long-standing textile industry losing out to foreign competition, then there was Brideshead revisited, another story about a commoner and a member of the elite upper-classes falling in love, because apparently we can’t get enough of those. Then there was Becoming Jane, another cliché love story, this one about a posh English girl and an Irishman, another cliché among British love stories. And now we have his latest entry, this being the true story of V.E. night, when the young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, went for a night out, ditched their chaperones, got lost, and had a series of misadventures involving whorehouses, alcohol, a quest that amounts to running around London looking for princess Margaret, and an ensemble of unique, and often clichéd characters.
This cliché is a problem that pervades a lot of this film. Firstly, there’s the princesses themselves – Elizabeth being the smart, prim, proper one, the “straight man” if you will, whereas Margaret is here to get drunk, have a good time, and is mostly clueless about everything that’s going on around her, i.e. she’s the comic sidekick, the Jack Sparrow to Elizabeth’s Will Turner. Then of course there’s Rupert Everett and Emily Watson as the disapproving parent-figures, and there’s up-and-coming Irish actor Jack Reynor as Jack, the grumpy, brooding soldier with a secret heart of gold. Finally, there’s Captain Pryce and Lieutenant Burridge, the two drunken, inept chaperones who, to their credit, do manage to provide a few laughs. It quickly becomes apparent that this is a fish-out-of water movie, one of the oldest genres in Hollywood.
On top of that, this film also keeps banging you over the head with the message that the royal family are just like you and I, despite the extravagant wealth, fame etc., and to that end the screenplay, easily the film’s biggest weakness, keeps contriving things for Jack and Elizabeth to have in common in an attempt to have a “star-crossed lovers” element to the story – which brings me to my biggest criticism of this film, the script. The dialogue is mediocre, and despite having watched it a few days ago, I can’t remember a single line, always a sign of poor scripting. As well as this, the characters feel more like archetypes than actual 3-dimensional human beings, and the over-arching plot sinks to one of the laziest forms of story-telling, one I like to refer to as fashionably late syndrome, wherein the characters are given a single objective that never changes or alters, and every time they get to where that objective is, its moved on to a different area. You remember those old Super Mario games wherein you’d storm a palace, beat king Koopa, and then be told “sorry, but our princess is in another castle”? Same deal here.
However, despite some big failings by the script, there are some plus points. Julian Jarrold excels at giving this film a brisk, frantic pace, in fact he does it well enough that you don’t even notice the scripts numerous problems until you reflect upon it later on. Leads Jack Reynor and Sarah Gadon, both up-and coming actors, prove their skill yet again and have quite an appealing chemistry, which also helps to make up for the script’s deficiencies. As well as that, the sound design courtesy of Andy Kennedy is also top-notch, adding extremely well to crowd scenes that rely too much on shaky cam.
If you like your adventure romps, and can keep things like poor scripting and character development from detracting from your enjoyment, you’ll enjoy this. However, if you like better scripts with more cohesive storylines, and if no amount of good direction or acting can make up for a lack of the aforementioned, you should probably avoid this film.
12A (See IFCO for details)
A Royal Night Out is released 15th May 2015