Movie review of “A Royal Night Out”: This featherweight tale follows teenage Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as they go out incognito among their subjects, getting a crash course in how the other half lives. Or rather, parties. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
“A Royal Night Out” is a featherweight trifle.
Set in London on the evening of V-E Day, May 8, 1945, when World War II ended in Europe, it’s a fanciful tale of two teenage sisters out for a night on the town. The sisters happen to be Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret of the House of Windsor, and so what we have here is a kind of “Prince and the Pauper” variant: Going incognito among their subjects, they get a crash course in how the other half lives. Or rather, parties.
Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), 19, is the more mature and reserved of the two. Her 14-year-old sister, Margaret (Bel Powley), is a flighty ditz given to saying stuff like “I’m completely cheesed” at being cooped up in Buckingham Palace, a real no-fun zone, and (I swear) “too-da-loo.”
Movie Review ★★
‘A Royal Night Out,’ with Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Jack Reynor, Rupert Everett, Emily Watson. Directed by Julian Jarrold, from a screenplay by Trevor de Silva and Kevin Hood. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief drug elements. Several theaters.
Daddy the king (Rupert Everett) and Mommy the queen (Emily Watson) are not too keen on the idea of their little darlings going out among the hoi polloi, but Elizabeth prevails upon the king by saying it would be a good way for the girls to gauge the reaction to his war-is-over address to the nation. He’s self-conscious about his stammer (see: “The King’s Speech”) and worries he might be mocked.
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So off they go, accompanied by two Brit-twit officer chaperones whom they very quickly ditch. Even more quickly they’re separated.
Margaret falls in with low companions, one of whom spikes her drink with immoral purposes in mind, and she soon finds herself in the company of floozies. Elizabeth meets cute with a handsome RAF flier (Jack Reynor) with an authority-hating streak and a guilty secret. She has no money — royalty doesn’t soil its hands with grubby cash — so he grumpily/gallantly pays her bus fare. Amid mobs of Union Jack-waving revelers, romance tentatively blooms. In the case of Margaret, misadventures harmlessly play out.
The picture is rescued — just barely — from being too precious for words by Gadon’s restrained and gently touching performance. God save the future queen for bringing some needed weight and grace to this hokey fluff.