The Royal Treatment movie review Bland dialogues

The Royal Treatment movie review: Bland dialogues, stale idiosyncrasies abound in this Netflix rom-com

The Royal Treatment constantly juggles the fairy tale element with the woke, perhaps to appeal to an internet audience that values wokeness

I spend a lot of time worrying about the future of the rom-com. Seriously, I do. I keep telling anyone who will listen that it’s been so long since I watched a simple, fun, good rom-com. The Royal Treatment (on Netflix) does nothing to alleviate my worry. If this is the only way filmmakers can adapt rom-com tropes, maybe it’s best that rom-coms aren’t made.

The premise of The Royal Treatment is simple. A kindhearted, charming Italian hairdresser Izzy (Laura Marano), meets the Prince of Lavania, Thomas (Mena Massoud), by accident. His entourage calls her to cut his hair, mistakenly believing she is a high-profile hairstylist from New York. She’s not— she’s just a young girl in New York, who’s struggling to pay for all the repairs needed in the family salon, hopes to one day travel the world, and till then buys donuts for the kids in the community centre across the road. The rest of the story is hilarious in its predictability. Is there a Prince engaged to a wealthy woman? Check. Does he feel trapped in his royal station? Check. Does our protagonist manage to win the hearts of all the citizens in Lavania, except the Royal family? Check. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.

Izzy is almost caricaturish in her attempt to be happy and likeable. She is the protector of everyone: the children in the community centre, the housekeeper in the palace, the financially-weak sections of Lavania. These people, by the way, all live in the same area, Uber de Gleise or “over the train tracks,” but have beautiful night markets where they perform folk dances and are happy in a way that the Prince can never be because he has responsibilities. Wow.

Prince Thomas himself is entirely without personality. We are constantly told that he feels incompetent or trapped in his position, but the movie never fully explores it or delves deeper into the issue. We don’t know anything about what he likes or dislikes- we are told Izzy likes the tabloids and the gossip; what about the Prince? It is so important for a rom-com to ensure that viewers fall in love with the protagonists- it’s the only thing that can make the done-to-death premises work. Unfortunately, the characters don’t provide that here, and Marano and Massoud don’t add anything to the portrayal.

The stock side characters don’t leave a lasting impression, though there is immense unexplored potential in the relationship between Izzy and her overbearing, overprotective mother (Amanda Billing). Who are Izzy’s friends and confidants? She never seems to talk to anyone except when she is saving them. Also, for all of Izzy’s militant desire to help everyone, she sure leaves her friends and co-workers (Chelsie Preston Crayford and Grace Bentley-Tsibuah) to undergo random haircutting training while she goes to save the world. Also, the bland dialogues and stale idiosyncrasies of the characters don’t make the comedy part of the rom-com work. The other reason the film doesn’t work for me is the way the palace of Lavinia is shown. It seems to be an extremely uninspiring building with poor aesthetics and architecture. The grandeur and awe, usually part of Royalty romances, is missing here.

The film constantly juggles the fairy tale element with the woke, perhaps to appeal to an internet audience that values wokeness. For example, here, there isn’t a damsel in distress but rather the prince who requires saving. Izzy is constantly fighting for social justice and wants to uplift the disenfranchised. Yet, in the last few minutes, the movie seems to stop caring about all these issues and becomes merely about two people in love. Which is ok, but then, why bring up the issues at all?

Does the movie still work as a fun weekend watch, especially for a younger audience, maybe in their teens? That’s an interesting question because I think at some point, we have to accept that these rom-coms are made for less cynical people, people who don’t watch the ending of a rom-com and think, “But what about their jobs?” “Will they live in Lavania or New York?”

I think that’s something we need to acknowledge: that its target audience might enjoy the movie very much, indeed. However, in my defence, I will say that even they have seen this story many times and read about it in fairy tale after fairy tale. It’s an old story and not even in a new package.

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