I love terrible fictionalisations of real-life events. I especially like the grey spaces in between what’s real and what isn’t. And as soon as I saw the trailer for this ridiculous film, quickly made to cash in on the royal wedding, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.
The blurb on the DVD box is very promising, offering us “a rare, tantilising [yes] glimpse behind a gilded curtain“. Perhaps slightly misleadingly, it also promises to show us “the ultimate of dream endings – a Royal Wedding watched by the entire world” and describes itself as “this definitive DVD memento of the big day“. Well I’m sure they ran it all by Legal, but I have to break it to you, there’s no wedding here, fictionalised or otherwise.
Having established a proudly tenacious relationship to the truth, let’s plough on, as we pan gracefully around some rooftops in a manner that put me in mind of the Emmerdale opening sequence.
FACT: KATE IS ONE OF US!
The first thing we see is Kate in a jogging suit popping some Apple earbuds in. Wow – you can’t imagine Lady Jane Grey doing that! It’s a point extensively made elsewhere, but this daughter of multi-millionaires, educated at private school and at one of Britain’s most exclusive universities, is not a ‘woman of the people’. She might be very nice for all I know, but let’s not pretend that she’s ever sat distractedly through Family Fortunes worrying that she’s going to run out of money for bus fare to work in the last week before pay day.
This stupid idea of commonality is rammed home in the scene when Kate takes Wills home to meet her family (which, amazingly, includes Calvin from S Club Juniors). Will comes down to breakfast togged up in a neat jumper and trousers and they’re all sat in their dressing gowns. They leap up, offering to get dressed, practically tugging their forelocks, and Will smiles “No, this is much better!” Horrific awkwardness. Which brings us to:
FACT: THE ROYALS ARE ALRIGHT REALLY!
I imagine if I ever met Prince Charles I’d find him to be a distant, inarticulate, mumbling weirdo. In the film however, he’s portrayed by Ben Cross with great vitality and a firm but compassionate demeanour. It’s the biggest suspension of disbelief they ask of us. Though he does give us an outstanding example of a character telling another something they already know, when he says “I was married in a completely different time to you William. I had to marry someone whom my mother — the Queen — felt was appropriate.”
William on the other hand is, bravely, written and played as someone with no discernable personality at all, other than being vaguely likeable. “Who’s your fvourite artist?” asks Kate when they first meet. “Monet and Cézanne!” says Will automatically. “I like the way they play with light.” Hmmm.
He mostly gets to raise a lot of amused eyebrows as the people around him supply comic relief. “I’m applying for the position as your wingman!” says his new best friend at university, seemingly unaware of the homoerotic subtext Top Gun’s given to that term. “If you’ve had too many girls in your room and need help, I’m your man!” On the other hand perhaps he knows exactly what he’s saying.
FACT: THE BRITISH TABLOID PRESS ARE EVIL!
Well that may be the case. But mostly I’m fascinated by the fake newspapers and magazines seen in the film, including The Daily Press, The Crier, The Orb, The Weekly Telegram, and my favourite The Clarion. The Clarion are incredible: after seeing a headline about her on their front page, Kate runs outside and immediately sees the same story advertised on the side of a bus. If nothing else, this puts us in an exciting fictional world, one in which bus advertising space can be booked, and artwork designed, printed and distributed for it, in a matter of days or hours. (NB: this is practically science fiction.)
FACT: IT’S A FAIRYTALE ROMANCE!
All the publicity around the film is keen to stress this. I’m going to presume they mean the idea that anyone, however humble, or especially if you’re humble, can win the heart of a royal.
In fairy tales, the woodcutters and downtrodden village girls of middle Europe generally win the love of their prince or princess through their wit, their tenaciousness, their purity, or their ability to understand the unspoken rules of a magical deal. How does Kate enchant Will in the film? There’s a scene in which he laments that his whole life’s been planned out for him, and Kate coaxes him to imagine how things could be if he did whatever he wanted. But they’re still just mates at that point and that’s not when he falls for her.
No, the exact moment when Will first takes notice of Kate is pinpointed very clearly. The university gang are putting on a fashion show; she’s on the catwalk and he’s in the audience. “Unwrap the gift, Miss Middleton!” leers the compère, and Kate flings off a coat to reveal a wobbly cleavage crammed into not very much fabric. We cut to Wills, eyes popping out of his head. “She’s hot!” he exclaims. And that’s it. That’s when he starts thinking of her as more than a friend. There’s your fairytale, girls. Show him your tits. Sorry if you haven’t got any.
FACT: THEY’RE A MODERN COUPLE!
What could be more modern than sex before marriage? When they finally get together, via a series of increasingly ridiculous smouldering looks, they – SPOILER – do it! We don’t see the rutting itself, thankfully, but there’s a post-coital scene of Kate running her fingernails through the hairs on Will’s chest. And a montage of them sneaking in and out of each other’s bedrooms. With hilarious consequences, obviously.
Another ‘modern’ touch is the idea of the woman in a relationship standing up for herself (IMAGINE!), and when the couple briefly break up we see Kate telling Wills she’s fed up of always being the one who drops whatever she’s doing and comes running whenever he‘s free. They finally reconcile in the climactic scene in which Wills turns up at her rowing training; he rips off his jacket and is on the point of swimming across the river to reunite with her. That would have been a nice ending, by any romantic standard. But no. She stops him, and she plunges into the icy water to go and meet him. That’s the last scene before they get wordlessly engaged in front of a fabulously naff Kenyan diorama, folks, so it’s important. And effectively it says that Kate’s accepted Will’s mastery in the relationship, will sacrifice herself to save him embarrassment, and gives up on any claim to independence.
Modern my arse.