Since the beginning of time there has been one question that’s troubled mankind above all others; what do you buy the royalist who has everything? In the unlikely surrounds of a small West London screening room, this age-old riddle was finally answered;
William & Kate: The Movie, on digital versatile disc.
Many scoffed when US cable network Lifetime announced in January 2011 its intention to make a TV movie charting “the love story of the century”, but in just a few short months it has created a truly remarkable piece of cinema.
Welcome to Los Angeles, California, the place where dreams are made and royal romance movies “inspired by true events” are shot.
With 3m in the budget pot, many productions might have wasted money on expensive locations and actors with consistent accents, but not Lifetime. This film is living proof that a shoestring can be stretched a long way before it snaps, and that when royal love is your theme, traditional production values are meaningless.
Two phrases sum up this straight-to-video work of genius: “creative cuts” and “impeccable casting”.
The former refers to – among other money-saving measures – the excellent use of library footage to give the illusion of Britain, yet without anyone involved leaving the 30-mile zone.
Ungraded stock shots of Marble Arch cut to Kate and her uber-tanned on-screen mother shopping on Rodeo Drive, while a poorly disguised American sixth-form college becomes St Andrews
A lake on the edge of the Hollywood Hills doubles perfectly for the River Thames, St Andrews town centre is represented by aerial library footage of what appears to be Oxford, and in William and Kate’s world, antiquated London buses drive on the right down leafy boulevards littered with “Don’t Walk” signs; yes, the attention to detail in this picture is breathtaking.
Similar care has been taken to ensure the lead characters do not disappoint.
British bit-part alumna Camilla Luddington, a mistress of the whimsical stare into the middle distance, portrays Kate, yet strangely she is somewhat less accomplished at holding her native accent.
However, with lines like: “I’m the girl he hangs out with, not the girl he goes home with” Camilla’s 90210 burr doesn’t seem so out of place.
But for every queen-consort in waiting, there must be a prince. Opposite Luddington is Nico Evers-Swindell’s William. Despite hailing from New Zealand, Nico’s accent is relatively authentic. However, whatever he spent on voice coaching obviously left him no change for acting lessons.
Mr Evers-Swindell delivers his lines with all the passion usually associated with a nest of tables. “I couldn’t wait another second to see you and I don’t want to spend another minute without you,” he reads, apparently from Luddington’s forehead.
This sounds bad, I hear you say, I don’t want to watch this…
Oh, but you do. Because it’s brilliantly bad.
Whereas traditional cinema wastes its time distracting the viewer from the protagonists’ plight with complicated B-stories and three-dimensional supporting casts, William & Kate: The Movie has none of that silliness to sour its regal credentials.
Bar the occasional sublime intervention from a Mr Spock-a-like Prince Charles (played by the wonderful Ben Cross), and the magical line “He’s the heir, I’m the spare” from Ron Weasley’s brother Prince Harry, almost no-one beyond the lead characters need be in this film.
“I hate the way they harassed his mother, they never left her alone,” says Mrs Middleton out of nowhere, when the writers realise the film has gone ten minutes without a pro-Diana anti-paparazzi line, but such distractions are the exception rather than the rule.
No, what Lifetime has created here is a deliberately two-dimensional picture with a wonderfully calculated focus on the title roles.
“I love the private you, I love the public you and I love the you that only I know,” confesses Kate to William. And that is where the film triumphs, in creating a secret world that only the royal couple know, and cannot easily be verified.
We will never know whether William chorused “She’s hot!” along with his classmates the first time he saw Kate in that dress, nor whether the couple’s first kiss resembled a grabbing attack from Gypsy Weddings down a back alley. But that doesn’t matter, because when committed to videotape and framed within the perfect media storm that is the royal wedding, even the obviously green-screened proposal of the century in Kenya becomes eminently watchable.
There is no doubt that some people (primarily in America) will enjoy this charming – yet largely fictitious – film because it tells a story they think is true or want to believe happened. However, the real reason it will sell bucketloads of DVDs is the same reason I’ll be buying a charming bone china royal mug from a stall on Whitehall and a “Your Palace or Mine” T-shirt – we Brits enjoy a kitsch cash-in, and frankly, they don’t come much bigger than this.
William & Kate: The Movie will be released on DVD on 25 April courtesy of Revolver Entertainment
You can also see the film on Easter Day at 3.55pm on Channel 5