21 May 2015

A Royal Night Out - film review

From At The Movies, 7:31 pm on 21 May 2015

A Royal Night Out - directed by Julian Jarrold, starring Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Emily Watson and Rupert Everett

A Royal Night Out blends World War Two nostalgia with a renewed interest in the royals, and a fondly remembered classic - William Wyler’s 1953 comedy Roman Holiday, in which Princess Audrey Hepburn runs away from the palace for a romp with Gregory Peck.

This story is based on a real life event. On VE Day the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were allowed to join the national celebrations by dancing all night at the Ritz…

But what – asks the film – if they dodged their bodyguards and had a night of adventure with the hoi polloi?  

So there’s the blue-print, there’s the extremely able cast, and off we go, surely?  Except that the blueprint turns out not to be as cast-iron as the producers and writers thought.  

First the princesses are saddled with two joke chaperones, then the writer forgets to give them any jokes. Abandoning their posts for a bit of rumpy-pumpy on the side is neither likely, nor particularly funny. It gets dumber…

Margaret dashes off with a dodgy Hooray Henry and ends up in a sleazy brothel in Soho. Elizabeth takes off in hot pursuit, and enlists the aid of a passing corporal, who had planned a rather brisker night with – you’ve guessed it - a few more working girls. The sisters keep missing each other, often outside working-class pubs, where the locals sing 'Roll Out the Barrel' and the National Anthem at the drop of a hat. 

Now I wouldn’t complain as much as I am, if the publicity hadn’t promised a bit more. But, in the time-honoured manner of most cinematic let-downs, all the best bits - including the very few surprises - are trotted out in the trailer.  

What A Royal Night Out has is a good cast and an idea waiting to deliver. What it doesn’t have is a writer, a director of the stature of Roman Holiday’s William Wyler, and most of all, nerve.