A Royal Night Out (2015)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Truth is often stranger than fiction... but on occasion, screenwriters decide the truth needs a little embellishment. It is true that Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth did go out on a "night on the town" at the conclusion of WWII, but the truth is both girls were heavily chaperoned and stayed to the "proper" places in London. In the film... not so much.
Peace is declared across Europe. Princess Margaret (Bel Powley) is itching to participate in all kinds of fun outside the palace walls, so she enlists her older, more responsible sister, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), to convince their parents this is a once in a lifetime experience. Their mother (Emily Watson) is adamantly against it, but their father (Rupert Everett) agrees, provided they remain in the right hotel with proper military chaperones. Two hapless, slightly annoyed young officers are assigned to keep them safe. Unfortunately for the officers, the girls prove more cunning than expected. Margaret gets bored -- and walks out right under the men's noses (granted, they're preoccupied at the time) with a man.
Once Elizabeth discovers she's missing, it's a madcap rumble through London to track down her wayward sister and get back home before midnight... or before the National Guard is called out to track them down. Along the way she picks up an embittered runaway soldier and realizes you need money to go places in London!
On the surface, this is a cute and often sweet story, with a touch of forbidden romance. We know Elizabeth cannot fall in love, and that they'll find Margaret safe and sound by the end of the night, but there are occasional surprises to keep the story interesting. Enough of the actual princesses' personalities are present to make it a believable retelling -- if you suspend your disbelief just a little. The costuming, set design, and music all evoke the right atmosphere, and the cast is marvelous. It's the sort of lightweight cinematic experience that isn't terribly memorable but does put a smile on your face.
However, and this is just personal preference, at times it felt tawdry to me. Much of the plot revolves around how innocent Margaret is, so she's often entangled in innuendo, or innocently saying things to prostitutes that give them the wrong idea of her as a working girl; it might be funny if you're fond of sexual humor, but to me it felt disrespectful. I also didn't need to see soldiers abandoning their posts to sleep with girls they just met -- leaving their post to dance with a pretty partner would have worked just as well. Still, it was charming enough I'll probably revisit it one day.
Their military escorts abandon them to get frisky with the ladies; one is shown cavorting in his underpants with two similarly un-attired girls (he's between her legs when talking on the phone). Two prostitutes are topless except for pasties. Margaret innocently stumbles into a whorehouse, and is mistaken for one; she engages in "innocent" innuendo (she doesn't know their meaning) and gets them into a posh club.
Racial slurs. Mild profanities (bloody, etc). God's name is abused a dozen times.
Street scuffles (men punching each other); references to gruesome wartime experiences.