If you can’t party after literally defeating the Nazis in Europe, when exactly is an appropriate time to celebrate? That is the philosophical question this week’s film considers, while also pondering how many people in 1945 England just happened to have Hitler effigies lying around for an improvised Bonfire Night.
A Royal Night Out
After the Allied victory in WWII, princesses Elizabeth and Margaret spend a wild night out on the town.
May 8, 1945, aka VE Day. It seems as if all of London is off to celebrate–everyone, that is, except for two Windsor princesses very much in need of a night out.
After much pleading with their parents, Elizabeth and Margaret finally strike a deal: the two sisters will get a night out until 1:00am, provided they return with a report on how the masses respond to the King’s midnight address (most likely feedback: who the eff picks midnight as a good time to address the nation?!?!). Though they will attempt to blend in with the crowd, they will be accompanied by two royal guards, who will serve as their chaperones.
Margaret is so ready to party that she doesn’t even care. Dressed in matching pink, the two are vaguely reminiscent of the twins in The Shining as they descend the grand staircase. I absolutely cannot imagine willingly matching my sister’s outfit for a night out on the town, but hey…different times.
Almost immediately, the princesses’ plans seem to be thwarted when they end up in a ritzy party full of the stuffy old nobility (is there any other kind?). Margaret gets into shenanigans with a naval officer and easily ditches all members of her party. Elizabeth loses the guards too, but doesn’t manage to catch up with her sister.
While Elizabeth does manage to hitch a ride on the bus in pursuit of Margaret, she is on a decidedly less fun bus. Even on the boring regular bus, fares must be paid–a thought that hasn’t occurred to Elizabeth. Luckily, her seatmate Jack, an airman, comes to the rescue by paying her fare, though they both manage to fall off the bus in a way that’s sweet in a rom-com, but would be horrendously painful in real life.
Having failed to track down Margaret, Elizabeth is in a bar when the clock strikes midnight. The rowdy masses quiet down and respectfully listen to George’s speech–everyone except for Jack. He reacts angrily to the speech and dismisses all of the posh gits in power. Elizabeth is annoyed but needs help getting to Trafalgar Square, where she believes she’ll find Margaret. There are so many goddamn people in that square that that I would have immediately turned around and gone home, sister or no sister.
Margaret has, in fact, gone to Trafalgar–but by now she’s on her way to a house of ill repute with , who drugs her drink(!?!??!?!). The owner of this establishment, who seems to be some kind of mafioso (or whatever kind of person just happens to collect horse heads in a bucket), comes to her rescue. True to form, Margaret is keen to get to the next place rumored to have a great party, and she now has a new escort.
Elizabeth and Margaret finally reunite, though their guards and the military police happen to arrive at the same location. When the military police seize Jack, Elizabeth reveals her true identity. But can she help him even though he can never be…part of her world?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Imagine a film is made about your epic night out…and you basically just drink and dance and come home a little past curfew. Don’t get me wrong–our leads in the film are great, and Princess Margaret is appropriately the queen of partying. (Speaking of the cast, I would have killed for Emily Watson and Rupert Everett to have more to do; I love them so much, but most of their cues in the script must have been “look disapproving.”) However, this night out is a bit of a non-story, and I have trouble understanding the point of this film. We learn about the experiences of royalty and civilian alike during the war, and even get a sobering look at neighborhoods bombed in the Blitz. Everything else about this film is so breezy that these moments don’t have the emotional impact they should.
For a film about a night out, there’s a lot of time spent running around London in a farcical way, which gets tiresome. And it may not be a great sign for a film when a decent number of major plot points remind me of Disney’s Aladdin? But without the catchy songs and upbeat genie sidekick. Perhaps I also had unrealistic expectations of how the film’s plot would play out.
Things I Expected But Did Not Happen in This Film:
- Rupert Everett and Emily Watson are crowned the actual King and Queen of England in honor of their disapproving frowns
- Princess Margaret runs away and becomes an acrobat but is fired after she tries to skin the circus animals to make a fur shrug
- Princess Elizabeth joins a group of anarchists determined to rid the UK of the monarchy
- Jeeves and Wooster are chased around a nightclub after stealing a cow creamer
Things That Did Happen in This Film:
- Elizabeth rather elegantly chugs a pint
- Margaret goes to a club of ill repute and refers to herself as P2 in an incredibly posh manner
- Elizabeth pushes around a passed out Margaret in a wheelbarrow
- Emily Watson as the Queen Mother imperiously asks “Hwhere have you been?”
- King George VI reveals his most secret (and arguably saddest) desire: to ride public transit
The moral of the story is I only care about the royal family when they’re being insane, and there’s not a ton of that going on here. Where is the Princess Margaret movie we deserve???