Wednesday, February 5, 2020

"Harry And Meghan" Are Gone With The Windsors

Although Lifetime's "Harry and Meghan: A Royal Romance" (2017) was bad, "Harry and Meghan: Becoming Royal" (2018) is even worse.

How do you do, movie lovers.

The world was surprised when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to you) decided early this year to "step back" from their duties as "senior royals" and settle in Canada (for part of the year, anyway).

I wasn't.

 How so? Because I watched Lifetime's "Harry and Meghan: Becoming Royal" (2018), sequel to "Harry and Meghan: A Royal Romance" (2017). After subjecting myself to this "insiders" view of life within Europe's best known royal family, my take-away was: what took you guys so long to bail?

If the script by Scarlett Lacey is to be believed, the Windsors are a group of casually racist, inbred, insufferable little twerps. They think it's fun to give each other "gag gifts" (like fake snot) for Christmas presents. They complain endlessly about their public duties ("Heading off to the royal ballet. We're patrons. Yawn!"). They're also positively obsessed with who is truly "royal" and who must curtsy to who.

Snobs Like Us: Dealing with snooty people is a major challenge for anyone who marries into an aristocratic or royal family. 

Now, if you think that sounds like tough sledding, just wait till you meet the Windsors' official staff. 

You thought Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca" was a piece of work? Ha!The house of Windsor is run by an army of omnipresent snoots with a collective stick up their hinders. These courtiers pride themselves on running our blue-blooded saps ragged with their incessant nagging about protocol and the "proper" way of doing things. Nobody escapes their beady eyes or sharp tongues--except the queen, who is fawned over 24/7.

Then there's the ubiquitous media, but we'll save them for later.

"Harry and Meghan: Becoming Royal" has barely begun before poor "Suits" star Meghan Markle (Tiffany Smith) is being relentlessly hammered by these forces. In fact, she hasn't even crossed the pond when Prince William (a pop-eyed Jordan Whalen) barges into Harry's Kensington Palace suite to rain on his kid brother's marital parade.

"What have you got there?" William sneers, eyeing the floral bouquet Harry (Charlie Field) has ready for his bride-to-be. "Peonies? Petunias? I always thought you were a Pansy man."

Not-So-Brotherly-Love: Harry and Wills debate if true love can exist between Americans and British royals.

"Bugger off!" Harry claps back.

"No, seriously, I get it," Wills insists. "You must get the chi just right."

Then big brother launches into what must be his 10,000th warning to Harry about rushing into marriage with the outspoken, yoga-practicing, avocado-munching American.

"I'm thrilled you've found the girl of your dreams," the future king says. "But...I feel it's my duty to caution you. The firm has been around for 1,000 years; you've only known Meghan 18 months."

Way to be supportive, bro!

The Bold and the Beautiful: Harry and Meghan just love, love, love each other.

Finally Meghan arrives and she and Harry are so happy to see each other they fall into each others' arms and kiss the hell out of each other. Then it's time to prepare for Meghan's first Christmas at Sandringham, where yapping Corgis, stuffy relatives and games of sharods are the order of the day. It's here Meghan runs into "Lady Annabella" (Marie Collins), who makes Meghan feel as useful as a lampshade in a whore house--and that's before the press compares Meghan's fancy hat to a glob of shit.

Next come endless wrangles about the wedding guest list. Believe it or not, our smitten kittens had to plead with the flunkies at Buckingham Palace to allow them to invite Oprah! Later on, Meghan is pressured into wearing opaque tights and pale nail polish. She manages to arrange a meeting with future sister-in-law Kate (Laura Mitchell), the Duchess of Cambridge, but she's not much help. That's odd, considering "commoner" Kate reportedly had her own struggles with the palace staff and Wills' aristo-brat friends. In fact, their brief meeting turns weird when Meghan hands Kate a baby gift for newborn Prince Louis and says, "I know you don't have baby showers here." Is that a sly hint/dig about Meghan's future star-studded baby shower in New York that had "royal watchers" grasping their pearls over its reported excess?

Realizing his wife will need a "buffer" between her and the palace, Harry encourages Meghan to hire a PA. This nameless assistant is perfectly fine with Meghan's "all American entrepreneurial spirit" and the fact that her new boss wakes up at 5 AM to do yoga. This is a better match than veteran courtier Sir Leonard Briggs (James Dreyfus), who never hesitates to let Meghan--or anyone else--know when they've tripped up (except for the queen, who everybody fawns over).

However, things get sticky when Meghan wants to help the survivors of the Grenfeld Tower fire keep their community kitchen open. When she proposes creating a cookbook of the women's favorite recipes, the royals and their staff go nuts. It's too political! Immigration is such a touchy subject! It just isn't done! Can't she wait until after she's married Harry to do this?!

Yet Meghan holds her ground. She tells her future in-laws that if she doesn't "stay true to her ideals", the British public will merely perceive her as "some girl in a pretty dress." The cookbook project stays.

All in the Royal Family: Meghan's hat falls flat.

Yet all this will seem like tiny taters once Thomas Markle (Brian Blain), Meghan's eccentric father, gets into the act. Just weeks before the wedding, the paparazzi publish "candid" pictures of Thomas preparing to walk his daughter down the aisle. At first he insists he had nothing to do with the snaps, but then admits half-sister Samantha (whom Meghan is estranged from) convinced him to pose (for a fee), to "improve" his image. This leads to more tabloid tattling and a nasty father/daughter fight. Eventually, Thomas ends up in the hospital with heart trouble and (alas) backs out of the wedding at St. George's Chapel.

Meghan is heart broken, of course, and just about to throw in the royal towel when Prince Charles (Charles Shaughnessy, best known as Mr. Sheffield on "The Nanny") comes to the rescue. Admitting his own short comings as a father, he offers to walk Meghan down the aisle. She's grateful and overjoyed and everything is back on track.

Harry and Meghan's royal wedding is a triumph, but that doesn't mean the happy couple's problems are over. Far from it. The press, especially the tabloid media, are all over Meghan once everything is legal. In short order they accuse the new duchess of inspiring a rift between the brothers Wales, spending a mint on the refurbishment of their new home, lecturing people on environmental issues while taking carbon-dumping private jets, even excessively cradling her "baby bump".

Leading the charge in Meghan bashing are the fictitious hosts of "Good Day UK", Caspian (Noah Huntly) and Stella (Claire Filipow). This pair acts as a Greek chorus, popping in and out of the flick, offering snarky commentary on Meghan's royal progress. In an added twist, "Harry and Meghan: Becoming Royal" suggests Stella and Meg were once social media buddies until Ms. Markle met Harry and promptly "ghosted" Stella. Of course, that could never happen in real life! I mean, where DO these writers get their ideas? (Hint: ask Piers Morgan?)

Of course, when "Harry and Meghan" finally ends, it appears the Sussex's have vanquished their less "woke" rivals and/or critics. Meghan even ditches her opaque tights and insists her cookbook cover features the Hub Community Kitchen women, not the neutral tomatoes Buckingham Palace wanted. When we last see them, the duke and duchess are happily pushing baby Archie in his pram while their two dogs trot contentedly beside them.

Happily ever after? Not until they get to Canada...

Movies like "Harry and Meghan: Becoming Royal" base their appeal on promising viewers an inside peek at a fiercely private world. It's never stated what authoritative sources informed this script, but I doubt it's the same crew who worked on "The Crown". Or "The Queen." Or "Downton Abbey", for that matter. Whatever problems the Sussex's faced before and after their wedding, things couldn't have been as nutty (or as badly acted) as they're depicted here.

I mean, when Harry learned Meghan was preggers, did he really get on his knees and start talking to her stomach?

Tiffany Smith comes off the best as Meghan; she's presented as smart, articulate, loving, kind and eager to use her royal status in the service of good. Everyone else in the cast is a jerk. The Queen is a doddering old pensioner; Prince Phillip is a cranky codger; Prince Charles is a flighty busybody--but Camilla Parker-Bowles is a glamorous "senior with sass." Charlie Field, as Prince Harry, is a highly emotional Ginger who desperately wants to get married and make babies. Right away. In fact, while the two are enjoying their first night as husband and wife, Harry interrupts Meghan reminiscing about their lovely wedding by demanding, "Can we make a baby now?"

Aside from the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-criticizing courtiers and snarky TV hosts Caspian and Stella, the real villain of the piece is Prince William. As played by Jared Whalen, the Duke of Cambridge is a prematurely bald old fust who is already organizing his coronation: "Gran is 93. Father's 70. It could happen any time!" Therefore, he wants to make sure the Sussex's don't rock the royal boat by becoming too "progressive", making he and Kate look bad by comparison. That's why Wills has a hissy fit when Meghan goes on record supporting the #MeToo movement. When Harry points out how important it is for women to have "a voice", Wills gets even battier, screaming, "Have you met Princess Charlotte?! It's obvious I'm not raising a daughter without a voice!" (I think this aside was made to show Wills doesn't know the difference between a "speaking voice" and having your views and/or ideas respected by the general population. Prince Charles also seems to miss the point, too, when he agrees with Wills that "Charlotte is a cheeky little monkey!").

 "Which Wills is Which?": Neither Prince William and his TV look-a-like are not happy with their role today's film.

  Meanwhile, wife Kate (Laura Mitchell) is depicted as so thoroughly entrenched in the royal milieu that she's become the very "girl in the pretty dress" cypher Meghan wants to avoid.

Poor cow. To think only yesterday the British press were calling her "Waitie Katie" and bashing her mom for chewing gum at a royal event!

Nobody ever said joining a royal family was easy; just ask anyone who married Henry Vlll. But why do these "royal romance" movies always have to be the same--and be so lame? They all feature a "meet cute", the "commoner" cuddlemate being chased by the press, the royal staff being snooty, the bride-to-be suffering from pre-wedding jitters, the grand ceremony itself and the arrival of the royal couple's first kid, which implies everything will be hunky-dory from now on.

Personally, I am still waiting for a TV movie about Norway's King Harald V, who defied his parents and waited ten years to marry his cuddlemate, Sonja, who was a "commoner." It would also be fun if they made a TV movie about Harald's son and heir, Prince Haakon, who shocked high society by marrying a "commoner" single mother who was once active on the Raver party scene (Haakon and Mette-Marit have two kids and have been happily hitched for 18 years).  Let's also not forget Sweden's Prince Carl Philip, who found true love with an ex-"glamour model" and reality show contestant. Or his older sister Crown Princess Victoria, who married her personal trainer. Now these are "royal romance" movies begging to be made!

So movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, that married life, either to a royal or a regular Joe, is never easy. And when things get tough, just remember your vows, talk things over, seek help...or move to Canada.

"Goodbye, we're moving to Canada!"

And Save the Movies!