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Harry and Meghan: Escaping the Palace review – Terrible movies like this are an art form

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To understand America, you must first try and understand Lifetime Television. Since 1984, the US cable network has been a cultural mainstay, pumping out an endless supply of melodramatic TV movies made quickly and cheaply. They are often inspired by real-life scandals or tragedies, yet drained of any nuance for maximum storytelling impact. They sport titles that make them sound unreal – Fatal Honeymoon; The Bride He Bought Online; I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story – and are awash with shoddy wigs, risible acting and bad taste. So naturally Lifetime have made a trilogy of films about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, all of them appalling yet spectacular, and destined for camp classic status. The latest, Harry and Meghan: Escaping the Palace, may be the best/worst one yet.

Escaping the Palace, which is sadly unrelated to Lifetime’s recent Escaping the NXIVM Cult, sees the pair’s fairytale union take a dark turn. It is essentially a stilted recreation of the last two years in Harry and Meghan’s lives, from the pair seeing Danny Baker’s tweet comparing baby Archie to a monkey, to their interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In between are numerous mini-scandals you probably read about at the time, like Markle guest-editing an issue of Vogue, which is dramatised with all the subtlety of Su Pollard swinging an axe around a firework factory. “I’m putting a mirror on the front cover so the reader gets to see themselves among these powerhouse women,” Markle helpfully explains.

The dialogue falls into that general wheelhouse. Everyone here speaks like cyborgs programmed to express human emotions by an automatic text generator. “Will her relentless self-expressing never cease?”; “We need to let people hear our truth!”; “Is that the woman who wore that racist brooch to Christmas lunch?” It is abjectly, consistently glorious.

There are a handful of contenders for worst moment. One occurs less than 10 seconds in, with a nightmare in which Harry (Jordan Dean) pulls open the door of the upturned car we assume has his dying mother inside, only for Meghan – shell-shocked and pleading – to tumble out instead. Another involves Meghan (Sydney Morton) being plagued by visions of Diana throwing herself down a staircase. It’s as if the Duchess of Sussex has been briefly transported into a Conjuring movie. The true nadir, though, is when Will and Kate’s machiavellian PR advisor (a scenery-chewing Keegan Connor Tracy) declares how she plans to destroy Harry and Meghan’s reputation in the press: “We shall use what I believe is called cancel culture.” Reader, I exploded.

In fairness, the acting here isn’t too bad. Morton nails Meghan’s syrupy if slightly lethargic vocal pattern, while Jordan Whalen and Laura Mitchell – both of them leftovers from previous installments in the Meghan & Harry Lifetime Cinematic Universe – are royally uncanny as the Cambridges. Yes, Whalen plays Prince William like the cursed love child of Laurence Fox and the Demon Headmaster, but it works all the same.

While royalists may riot over Escaping the Palace – this is firmly pro-Megxit cinéma, after all – everyone else will hopefully appreciate its unbridled badness. This is drinking-game catnip, a feast of bizarre and dubious choices played with irresistible sincerity. Terrible movies like this are an art form, Lifetime the genre’s Picasso. Of course Escaping the Palace is awful, but it’s also the most delicious piece of popcorn entertainment in years.

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