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Movies: ‘A Royal Night Out’

Sarah Gadon in ‘A Royal Night Out’
Sarah Gadon in ‘A Royal Night Out’ Atlas Distribution

It’s hard to imagine, but Queen Elizabeth was a kid once, too — long before the pearls and the little handbags. In fact, on V-E Day, May 8, 1945, she was just 19.

And, like a typical teenager might do, she convinced her skeptical parents that she was responsible enough for a night on the town with her little sister, Princess Margaret, to celebrate with the masses. Or at least that’s the premise of A Royal Night Out, a comedy of errors oh-so-loosely based on actual events.

In the movie, directed by Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots), the heir apparent is a most compliant child. Charmingly played by Sarah Gadon, Lilibet, as her sister calls her, wouldn’t normally be one to rock the boat at home. But Margaret (an effervescent Bel Powley, who at 23 is clearly older than the real-life Margaret would have been) knows her parents will only listen to their more level-headed daughter, so Elizabeth reluctantly does Margaret’s bidding.

The one thing the largely ignored, self-proclaimed P2 — as in “princess two” — wants to do is dance the Lindy Hop. (Right, that’s what they all say.) So, off the kids go after an undoubtedly empty promise to be home by 1 a.m.

It doesn’t take long for the girls to lose their bumbling chaperones amid a crush of Londoners out celebrating the end of the war. And then the two get separated from each other, which means that Elizabeth spends the entire night trying to track down Margaret. Every time she gets close — wouldn’t you know it? — they just miss each other.

Elizabeth has never even made a cup of tea, so it’s lucky she stumbles upon the strapping Jack (Jack Reynor), a disillusioned soldier, who doesn’t know his new companion’s real identity. Of course, love, or at least a bit of lust, is in the cards. Though, given that he is not secretly named Prince Philip, there’s no question how this pairing will end.

For the most part, the movie keeps things light with a jazzy brass score and a parade of fish-out-of-water scenarios. The script, written by Trevor De Silva and Kevin Hood, falters when farce gives way to melodrama, but the movie regains momentum with a climax in a ballroom where champagne is guzzled, fists fly and Lindys are hopped. Maybe Margaret just wanted to dance, after all.

Most likely, the real Elizabeth never had such a memorable, action-packed evening. But it’s fun to imagine, if only for a moment, that behind the facade of stately hats and matching suits, the queen is hiding some wacky stories.

Exclusive: Harkins Southlake 14; Look Cinemas, Dallas; Cinemark Legacy, Plano; Cinemark West Plano; AMC Stonebriar, Frisco

A Royal Night Out

 1/2 

Director: Julian Jarrold

Cast: Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Emily Watson, Rupert Everett

Rated: PG-13 (some sexual content)

Running time: 97 min.

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