Laura Marano is no stranger to playing a starring role in romantic comedies helmed by Netflix. But while The Royal Treatment isn’t exactly her first rodeo in films of this genre from the streaming platform, her initial starring role saw her play something of a second fiddle to Netflix sweetheart Noah Centineo. With 2017’s The Perfect Date, it was Centineo who was the man, as that song by The Killers emphasised. But with this 2022 movie, she’s very much the star of the show.
Written by Holly Hester, and directed by Rick Jacobson, The Royal Treatment stars Marano alongside Mena Massoud (from Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin) as the duo we’re meant to ship. This movie also features, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Grace Bentley-Tsibuah, Cameron Rhodes, Phoenix Connolly, and Sonia Gray.
We’ve been here before with Netflix. If there’s one thing this streaming platform has churned out in droves, it’s romantic comedies. No matter the time and period of the year; from the To All the Boys trilogy, to The Kissing Booth trilogy; from Love Hard to Love, Guaranteed; it’s all there. As such, they’ve become predictable, repetitive, and so cliched, they have layers in them.
Hence, the question with The Royal Treatment would be ‘what makes it different?’ The answer, not much. In fact, the premise – of the pair, one is a member of a royal family and hasn’t lived as a ‘normal’ person before, while the other is a struggling working-class individual with a yearning to experience more than they already do (where’ve we heard those before). Thus, this movie offers very little difference in terms of what’s come before.
To an extent, this movie gets a touch meta. We seem to be in an age of self-awareness in film, where in-house and self-deprecating jokes litter the place. From the fourth instalment of The Matrix to the fourth instalment of Scream, films and franchises take on this shtick of shading itself and thinking that makes it fine. The Royal Treatment does do a bit of that, almost trying its hand at some sort of organic shade at the genre of rom-coms, and not just this sole film in itself. But, again, self-awareness is a fake band-aid to cover up and excuse overt flaws.
Laura Marano very much takes the spotlight in this movie. This movie very much revolves around her, so much so that Mena Massoud’s character only really has relevance when in proximity or reference to hers. Her performance as Isabella is different, and quite uplifting, especially in comparison with her role as a stodgy anti-social trust fund kid in The Perfect Date. But much of it does bear too much semblance with her Disney sitcom past; at times watching Isabella is like watching a more adventurous version of Aly from Austin and Aly, and with little else.
This also speaks to The Royal Treatment as a whole, with a lot of acts that seem like Disney teenage sitcom. The lack of believability, consequence, or originality. The deliberate and transparent falseness of it all; that makes it more of an excitable movie than an exciting one. The Royal Treatment opts for purposeless humour, it doesn’t really want all of this to mean anything. But the issue with that isn’t the lack of purpose, but rather the lack of humour. It doesn’t stick, and sometimes it goes over your heads by virtue of being cliched and without life.
To its credit, there are fun moments in The Royal Treatment. This movie offers nothing you haven’t seen in other rom-coms, just a change in cast (or cast collaboration, at least), but some make it quite a fun watch. Particularly with the pair of Chelsie Preston Crayford and Grace Bentley-Tsibuah, whose performances have no conviction, but make up for that by being cheerful and upbeat, while Cameron Rhodes does liven up bits of the film despite being the opposite of the former pair.
But this movie is the latest in the rom-com cliché from Netflix. Like many others before it, The Royal Treatment can’t beat the stereotypical romance allegations; but it never looked like it wanted to anyway.
From Soda and Popcorn, The Royal Treatment gets a Popcorn and Water
***The Royal Treatment is on Netflix