Does it have “Prince” in the title? Then I’m there. So much there that I just hit “record” on my DVR without reading the little blurb describing the plot of the movie, but luckily, I’m a fast learner. This film, however, has the added bonus of being based on a book, and ALSO, it’s a book I’ve actually read! I got it free on Kindle one day and read it in like an hour on my phone. I’ll give you my comments on the book later – now it’s time to delve into Once Upon a Prince.
First things first – look at this poster. Both of them have the worst posture ever. You’re a freaking royal. All they do is stand up straight! Plus, he was in the Navy. I have so many issues with this one picture.
It takes place on St. Simons Island, Georgia. And again, as luck would have it, I’ve actually been there! Only stayed for a night on a vacation with my dear friend from college (Shout out, Kelly and QMW!) but I remember it being pretty, and kind of quiet. Judging by their website, it’s gotten a lot more happening since I’ve been there. This was also the research trip for that Civil War book I only wrote one page of, and the one with the haunted B&B in Charleston, where we both had to drink a ton before going back to our rooms. But that’s enough about me. You want to know about Susannah Truitt, and Prince Nathaniel.
As we open the film, there’s a young couple walking on the beach, being spied upon by a woman with binoculars. Spy woman is Suzy’s mom Glo, who is hoping to see a proposal of her oldest daughter, and she’s on the phone with husband Gil, giving him the play-by-play. But all is not rosy in this idyllic scene – Man is Adam, Suzy’s soldier boyfriend, done with being deployed and not interested in settling down and starting a life and a business together – so ba-bam! Suzy gets dumped. (FYI, the actor playing Adam is Clearly Canadian. Aboot much?) Suzy goes for a drive to ‘clear her head’ and gets a flat tire on the side of the road, coincidentally right near her favorite tree on the Island.
Who should show up but a handsome young British-sounding man who endeavors to help her change the tire. He’s not British, though, he’s from Cambria, and no one tells us where Cambria is, but I’m guessing it’s a stone’s throw from Lichtenstein. He introduces himself as Nathaniel Kenneth, and he’s visiting the island on holiday. He also remarks upon the amazeness of the tree, which of course has a name and a local legend – It’s the Lovers’ Oak, and if you get engaged under it, you’ll be together. forever. Nate gives Suzy his handkerchief because her hands are dirty – although why, since he changed the tire, and she promises to return it, but they don’t exchange numbers, and he doesn’t know her last name, so either St. Simons Island is like Cheers, and everyone knows your name, or he’ll make it his business to find her out. My guess? Option 2.
Nate is staying at a Mrs. Waller’s estate on the Island, who was a friend of his lately departed father, and has a ton of money, but not such a nice lawn. She’s badly in need of a landscape architect, and wouldn’t you know that Suzy is one? (Well, she was going to be one, see those plans she had with ex boyfriend Adam, but she put them on hold while he was deployed and…whatever. She could be one if she wasn’t so scared.) Nate, after 35 minutes of conversation, instantly knows she could be a great landscape architect and tells Mrs. W about her. He’s only got 14 days left on the island before he has to go back to Cambria and become King, and he wants to do some good.
Next day, he shows up at the garden supply store that Suzy works at and that her parents own, but before you can say hey, Nate, she finds out that her dad is in the hospital for stress-induced heart palpitations. He’s in a room when she gets there. This hospital must not do anything normal, like insurance paperwork, or maybe everyone who goes to the emergency room automatically gets a room? He’s on bedrest for a week, and Nate volunteers to help out at the store. Before we hit commercials, we are introduced to a sketchy looking guy with a camera – the evil paparazzi strikes again.
After a full day of working in a garden supply store at the height of spring planting, Nate’s white oxford shirt is still crisp, clean, and tucked into his khakis, apart from one little bit of artistically placed dirt on his face. So of course she cleans his face, and of course paparazzi guy finds it in his telephoto lens.
He gets her a discussion with Mrs. Waller about her garden, and she’s filled with plans of seagrass and lavender and voila, she gets the job, but she doesn’t bargain for a salary or anything, so is she just doing it to make her name, and to be photographed in Garden & Gun magazine (that is a real thing. look it up) or is she going to get paid for her efforts? It’s unclear.
Nate’s version of an Opposite Sassy Friend is John, who doesn’t tell him to go after what he wants because he’s gotta get out there. Instead, he tells him to stop now, because it’ll only cause heartbreak. But Nate ignores this, and then acts as Suzy’s assistant, which consists of playful banter about the plants, and wheelbarrowing. What he was supposed to was help at the store, but I guess this is ok, too.
It’s Spring on St. Simons Island, but you wouldn’t know it by the atmosphere. The sky is always gray, and it’s constantly raining.
At the family dinner that Nate attends at Suzy’s parents, he learns that she was Peach Princess in High School. I’m sure there is a Peach Princess in every county of Georgia. There are 100 Gajillion PeachTree streets in Atlanta, after all. But whatever, that night, the paparazzi’s photo gets published so Suzy finds out he’s a Prince, and Queen Mom in Cambria is less.than.thrilled at the tabloid and internet coverage.
Suzy is annoyed at being lied to, but melts unbelievably fast as he gushes about how it’s important to him to be “just Nate.” But he also discusses with her the fact that he must marry someone from Cambria because it’s Tradition. What do you guess that “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof is the national anthem? OR that “traditions need to be broken” will be spoken in some way or another? Whatever, they escape to ride bikes while responsibly wearing helmets around the island, and Sketchy Paparazzi Guy follows them.
We also find out that the Cambrian woman who is gunning for the job as Nate’s wife, the streaky blonde Lady Ginny, has an arrangement with Sketchy Paparazzi Guy, and she manages to get the the cute shot of them above sent to the palace, and ba-bam, Nate is recalled to Cambria.
Does Suzy have time for the sad times? Not yet – she’s too busy getting gigs to do more gardens! Good for her! But is Nate experiencing the sad times? Almost. Cambria seems to be full of nothing but maids, stone houses, and princes that pensively stare out of windows. Queen Mom does the speech about how it’s time for him to settle down, and isn’t Lady Ginny great. He can’t choose an American (shudder) because she wouldn’t know the first thing about being a royal. But, if she’s been a watcher of all these Hallmark movies, I think she’d be able to figure it out pretty quick, right? I could do it.
Lady Ginny shows up, and you know she sucks huge because she wears a cardigan sweater over her shoulders but not with her arms in the sleeves. Seriously, who the hell does that? But she does state quite convincingly that she knows how to maneuver the ins and outs of royal politics.
By the by, re royal politics – why is the Queen taking meetings with the Prime Minister, and why is she ruling the country when he is going to be King? Why isn’t he doing more and she doing less? I don’t know why this is a plot point in all these movies. Anyway. Queen Mom is not happy that Prince Nate is bummed, and Non Sassy Friend John says that Nate is romanticizing his time with Suzy, and if he saw her in Cambria, he’d realize just how unsuitable she is for his royal life. So ba-bam! Suzy is invited to work with a famous Royal Landscape Architect for 2 weeks and she and her sister Avery (brunette, serves the bubbly, bratty, flirty role, with no other real purpose) are off to Europe.
Just discovered that the actor playing Nate is NOT BRITISH. Thanks, fact that I can’t fast forward the commercials while streaming. I will say he had me completely fooled, and I usually have a good ear for that. Good on you, actor guy.
Suzy and Avery are settled into the servants quarters in the palace, and Suzy gets to work in the gardens. She immediately meets the Queen, who says “You’re exactly as I pictured you” in cultured accents just dripping in disdain. Suzy feels all insecure, but then she sees Nate (interrupting a press conference to hug a royal is not the best way to introduce yourself to the Cambrian people) but they are overjoyed to see each other and before you can say something like “Cambria is not a real country” Suzy and Avery are installed in nicer rooms, have invites to the coronation, and Nate is onto the fact that the Queen was in disdain mode. So while Nate and Suzy have lunch in the Royal Pagoda (oh, don’t you have one? I thought everyone did) Queen Mom complains to NonSassyFriend John to fix it, because the plan is not working.
And NOW he’s invited them to the coronation ball! But of course she doesn’t know how to dance, and of course he has to show her. It’s part Dirty Dancing footwork, part Sound of Music ballroom, but with none of the charm of either. Then, off to another pagoda lunch, which is interrupted by Lady Ginny, who tells Suzy that Nate needs someone to assist him in the workings of Cambria, and that’s her, sweetie, not Suzy. Oh, and could you clean up the picnic, thanks.
Mrs. Waller is in the palace and takes the girls shopping for their ball gowns, but I’m sorry, I thought Suzy was working in the gardens – how does she have this much time on her hands? She also manages to find her way to the Queen’s private gardens, and invites another lecture on how she’s unsuitable for Nathaniel. At least Queenie’s consistent.
At the coronation – the award for Ugliest Crown Ever in a Hallmark Movie goes to the monstrosity that gets put on Nate’s head. But afterwards, Suzy doesn’t know if she wants to go to the ball, because she’s unsure, and you know, all that Tradition talk has messed with her head. And Avery, fulfilling her set role of being the brat who just wants to go to the party, talks her into going.
Props to the dancers in this movie, as there are a lot more than any of the other movies. There is still a staircase, and she makes an entrance, stopping conversation, except for one guy who was clearly near a boom mike and kept in character the entire way through “Oh, she’s stunning, grumble grumble grumble.”
And they dance together – while no one else is. Aww.
They are off to have a moment, and share some champagne, but Nate is waylaid by Ginny, who gracefully concedes the floor to Suzy, but Suzy sees only the very nice good-bye, and sad times are beginning, and then brought home by Queen Mom who just hammers home that Suzy is not from Cambria, ergo she is not right for her son, so Suzy escapes from the palace in the middle of the night. Queen Bitch!
Suzy is not wallowing in the sad times, and her landscape architecture business is thriving. But Nate is not over Suzy, at all, and Queen Mom is calling out NonSassyFriend John’s behavior (like with Mrs. Waller, and the fact that the plan of Nate seeing Suzy in his natural habitat) wasn’t a good idea. And NonSassyFriend proves that he is, in fact, a Sassy Friend with a Capital S by saying that his job is all about making sure Nate is happy. Good for you, SassyFriend John! Suck it, Queen Mom!
Nate is working in his Royal Garden in his St Simons Island Garden Center button down. Aww. But Nate is super-duper pissed at his mom, and basically is saying F-U to Tradition, and by stating that he’s in love with Suzy, Queen Mom is thoroughly taken aback and immediately backpedals all her officiousness and meddling because oh, her sonny-boy is in love. Sunshine and unicorns in Cambria, people!
Back in St. Simons, Avery drops Suzy back at the magic Lovers’ Oak tree, which is now covered in Christmas lights, and Nate is waiting for her, with his heirloom engagement ring and a lovely proposal about rewriting tradition. And to say that she’s shocked is an understatement, but that’s nothing compared to the fact that both her parents and his mom and newly-christened SassyFriend John are hiding behind the tree spying on the engagement.
And they’re done.
Now, this was a very predictable, nice movie, marred by the fact that I didn’t like the actress playing Suzy at all, and I thought Nate was too scrawny. I did appreciate that there was minimal sad times. But how did it compare to the book?
Not to be mistaken for
The book by Rachel Hauck had a lot more sex in it, and WAY more Jesus. I’m serious – from what I remember, all they did was pray and kiss and kiss and pray and talk about how Jesus would lift them up and their strength was in Him. And that’s lovely and that’s wonderful and that is NOT why one reads this type of book. And I remember one scene in the book where they actually pray all night in the King’s favorite outdoor chapel, and then get interrupted by Sketchy Paparazzi Guy who infers that they did more than pray overnight, wink wink, nudge, nudge, say no more. I remember really hating the book. But hey, she’s a published author, who got a movie option, and I’m sitting here recapping her work, so who’s the winner?
All in all, not a major installment in the royal Hallmark movie genre. And even though it was supposed to be part of the “Spring Fever” marathon, the fact that there was almost no sun at all throughout this movie tells me it was filmed in November. I’d much rather not have to experience this one again, but I will, just so you don’t have to.