Harry & Meghan, A Royal Romance: I wanted it to be shoddier
Lifetime channel’s TV movie about the soon-to-wed couple is disappointingly enjoyable
Yet this bubbly idiot’s guide to their relationship never quite descends into hoot-out-loud territory – a grievous letdown for anyone expecting a right royal pantomime from a network notorious/beloved for its gloriously shoddy true-life movies.
Instead Harry and Meghan: A Royal Romance steers a rigorously sappy course so that by the end the viewer may feel they’ve been surprised in their sleep by an assailant wielding a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a battered into a stupor.
Harry – a role shared by Murray Fraser and an enormous wedge of orange hair – is introduced as the world’s saddest playboy.
He’s up all night stoically chugging alcopops only to be confronted in bed the following morning by the incandescent tag-team of Prince William (Burgess Abernethy), Kate (Laura Mitchell) and Prince Charles (Steve Coulter) who take turns stomping about explaining why he needs to get his life together.
Meghan, for her part, is ushered in via flashback. As a young girl she informs her father she wants to change the world and has no intention of following anyone’s path but her own. Naturally, this leads to a starring role in a mid-ranking TV legal drama.
But even here, she isn’t one for going quietly, as we learn when Markle (Parisa Fitz-Henley) tells a producer on Suits she’d rather do a scene in a demure jacket rather than a barely-there bathrobe. Ooof…take that, patriarchy!
The fateful first date between the future royal couple arrives a mere 20 minutes in – no moody longueurs on Lifetime – and is presented as schmaltz on a stick. Meghan upbraids Harry for being 40 minutes late, he cringes as he tells her his favourite guilty pleasure movie is The Lion King. Then they stay up all night gazing into one another’s eyes.
Lions, it is worth noting, serve as a motif through the film. On a getaway in Botswana Harry voices the theory that his mother, Diana, may have come back as a great cat. Rather than run screaming into the brush, Meghan and tells him it’s the sweetest thing she’s heard.
Later they are woken by rumbles in the outback – the pride calling to one another. What does it portend? Meghan has no idea and nor, it appears, has the script.
Harry and Meghan is essentially The Crown, if The Crown was a scripted by the bloke who cleans Peter Morgan’s gutters and was financed through a lunchtime raffle at the Netflix canteen. The leads do their best and, to his credit, Fraser is vaguely convincing in his portrayal of Harry as a misunderstood rascal whose alcopop years were his way of coping with the loss of his mother.
Fitz-Henley is solid also. Her Meghan is deadpan and hard to impress. Whether that’s a reflection of the real Markle is difficult to say but she at least feels like a fully-rounded individual. Yet these nuanced – by Lifetime standards – turns inhabit an entirely different universe from the portrayals of William, Kate and Charles, who are essentially Spitting Image puppets minus the shade and humanity.
The Queen pops up late on to give her seal of approval to Harry and Meghan – though only after she has confirmed Markle hasn’t appeared in The Crown (“I won’t have to throw you in the tower!”).
Neither a disaster nor a film anyone in their right mind would admit to watching, Harry and Meghan somehow takes a potentially ludicrous scenario – ragamuffin prince woos mid-tier actress while the tabloids throw monkey dung – and weaves it into purest stodge.