A ROYAL NIGHT OUT
May 8, 1945: V-E day. As the whole of London is on the streets to celebrate the official end of World War II in Europe, the two royal princesses Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) have a royal night out, when they slip out of Buckingham Palace to go dancing at the Ritz - incognito.
Review by Louise Keller:
The ordinary and the extraordinary sit side by side in this charmer of a film in which the two closeted royal princesses go incognito on V-E day for a night out in London. Beautifully capturing the upstairs downstairs nature of the story, director Julian Jarrold film has a feather light touch, encapsulating the humour and essence of amazement as Elizabeth and Margaret are exposed to people, places and situations they have never experienced. Lifted by the comic situations and based on some documented facts, Trevor De Silva and Kevin Hood have penned a 'what-if' fantasy in which we are witness to the unraveling of the evening.
When the film begins, we see Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) gazing through the windows of Buckingham Palace at the flag-waving crowd ecstatically celebrating the end of the war. With Winston Churchill's words 'We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing' still ringing in our ears and goaded by her fun-loving younger sister Margaret (Bel Powley, wonderful), Lilibet (Elizabeth's pet name) easily persuades her father King George (Rupert Everett, perfectly cast) on the promise to later tell him what the crowd really thinks; Queen Elizabeth (Emily Watson, magnificent) makes it clear she is not amused. Chaperones and home by midnight is not exactly what the girls are hoping for, but their fate changes as the evening slips into a series of hilarious misadventures in which their protective cocoon bursts open.
Wearing pastel pink and pearls, the fun begins. As Margaret, Powley perfectly embodies the ditzy, carefree party girl oblivious to the consequences as she drinks champagne, joins a conga line and goes with the flow, while her duty-conscious sister follows with a concerned look. From the moment that Lizzy jumps on a bus outside the Ritz, following her sister to Trafalgar Square (on a different bus), the film plays like a comedy of errors. On the bus she meets Jack (Jack Reynor), an outspoken airman with a secret and an inherent sense of decency. (Think Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, but not quite as handsome.) There are pink gins and 'bennies', working girls at the 'knocking shop', a dead horse, opium smoking, roulette and dancing the Lindy Hop as they venture from pub to club and beyond.
The scene in which Margaret is bundled into a wheelbarrow, while the Barracks officers trail behind with a taxi in tow is one of the funniest visuals and the instances when Lizzy admits that she does not handle money, nor has she ever made a cup of tea have a ring of authenticity about them. As for the relationship between Lizzy and Jack, it evolves with grace, subtlety and innocence; the scene in which they dream 'what if', when Lizzy imagines drinking hot chocolate at Café de Flore and walking through the Luxembourg Gardens on Sunday is highly romantic. Gadon as the future Queen Elizabeth is splendid - she is the epitome of sincerity and goodness without being stuffy. Chances are, even the Queen will enjoy the fable.
It's a sweet film and Jarrold puts it all together beautifully; we get a real sense of that moment in time when life changes - for everyone, including the royal princesses.
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A ROYAL NIGHT OUT (M)
CAST: Sarah Gadon, Emily Watson, Rupert Everett, Jack Reynor, Roger Allam
PRODUCER: Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae
DIRECTOR: Julian Jarrold
SCRIPT: Trevor De Silva, Kevin Hood
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christophe Beaucarne
EDITOR: Luke Dunkley
MUSIC: Paul Englishby
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Laurence Dorman
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 14, 2015