After making a name for themselves as a go-to destination for formulaic and oh-so-addictive holiday rom-coms, Netflix has decided to branch out and make this a year-round venture with their latest offering, The Royal Treatment.
The story of The Royal Treatment is one that any self-respecting fan of rom-coms can predict a mile away. Tough-as-nails yet kindhearted hairdresser Isabelle (Laura Marano) dreams of seeing the world, but the realities of owning a business in New York, not to mention an exploitative landlord and a mother who wants to keep her close at all times, mean her dream is getting further and further away.
Things change when visiting royal Prince Thomas (Mena Massoud) requires a last-minute haircut and his valet Walter mistakenly calls Isabelle’s salon instead of a similarly-named higher-end location, and offers to pay her $500 for her services. Though she leaps at the opportunity, Thomas’s disregard for those who work in his household staff enrages the equality-minded Isabelle and she storms off.
Because this is love at first snark — though, of course, he won’t admit it — Thomas pursues Isabelle back to her salon, and the two strike up a friendship. So much so that he has Walter commission Isabelle and her friends, Destiny and Lola, to do all the hair and makeup for his upcoming wedding to Texan heiress Lauren.
When the ladies arrive in Lavania, Isabelle and Thomas naturally grow closer together even though he is supposed to be marrying someone else, united in their desire to make meaningful change in the world around them, and do their best by the people they are supposed to serve.
As expected, The Royal Treatment is absolutely laden with the sorts of tropes we see in the royalty/commoner rom-coms all the time. This is not inherently a bad thing. After all, there is a reason audiences keep returning to these kinds of stories. They are cozy and comforting, and each one adds its own unique spin to make it stand out.
Unfortunately, this is where the film stumbles. There are a lot of good ideas present in the story, there just isn’t enough time to really do anything, but the romance, any kind of justice.
Both Isabelle and Thomas struggle with finding their respective places in the world, balancing what is expected of them with what they feel is possible for them to achieve. One particularly insightful moment comes courtesy of Thomas, when he points out that opportunities to affect change aren’t granted, but rather taken. Not the most original sentiment perhaps, but fairly profound from a made-for-streaming fairy tale.
The most questionable aspect of the whole thing — though granted, is not the part most people are likely tuning in to see — is the baffling political situation in Lavania. Lauren’s parents, who are wealthy land developers from Texas, somehow see fit to walk all over the king and queen of a sovereign nation in their own home. Tucked somewhere in there is a surprisingly insightful commentary about the state of modern-day monarchies, but overall it just gets lost.
Laura Marano (who produced The Royal Treatment alongside her sisters) is no stranger to the Netflix rom-com. Her Isabelle hits every expected beat for a heroine in a story like this. She is tough but not too tough, a free spirit, fun-loving in the face of tradition, and questions authority at every turn. It would be borderline “not like other girls,” except that the other girls are very similar, so she’s more a product of her environment. Speaking of the other girls, the supporting cast is uniformly delightful, over-the-top put-on accents aside, they provide a healthy dose of comic relief.
The standout of the cast, by far, is Mena Massoud, who is just giving it his all and giving a performance that often exceeds the material. If The Royal Treatment manages to achieve nothing else, let it be a call to casting directors everywhere to put Massoud in more rom-coms. He is effortless and charming, and through sheer force of will manages to sell the stranger aspects of the plot. That he didn’t come out of Aladdin absolutely drowning in work offers is criminal.
Ultimately The Royal Treatment achieves what it set out to do and does it just fine. It doesn’t break any new ground, even though it certainly tries to. In my opinion, eliminating the royalty aspect and having it be an out-of-touch wealthy family instead would have gotten around many of the script's issues, but that isn’t the fairy tale it's trying to sell.
Taking it for what it is, it is a perfectly pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, bringing that cheesy, cozy, TV Christmas movie vibe into year-round viewing.
The Royal Treatment is streaming now on Netflix.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Arezou Amin is a freelance writer with a lifelong love of Star Wars, romance, fantasy, and all things pop culture. She is the host of Space Waffles, a Star Wars-focused podcast on the Geeky Waffle network, where she also co-hosts the flagship show and writes reviews and recaps for the site.