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by Laura Sweeney on Feb 14, 2007
THE QUEEN REVIEW:
The Queen is an in depth examination of Queen
reaction, (or lack thereof) to Princess Diana’s
death in 1997. It’s a movie about
changing times: a ruler looks at the generation of people to whom they’ve given
their life’s work and finds nothing in common.
The Queen is a definite actor’s movie. Helen
Mirren, with Stephen
Frears’ distinctive direction, executed the
title role with tremendous restraint, internal wisdom, and power. Mirren was virtually transformed, her elegant
face turned dour with no fancy special effects of prosthetic, just good ole
fashioned acting. It was an extremely
challenging role, with Peter Morgan’s
brilliant screenplay offering sparse and subtle dialogue. The character of the
Queen does not have the luxury of divulging her inner emotions and neither does
the actress who plays her. In fact, with no help from a diary or voiceover,
Mirren connected with the audience and found a way to communicate the Queen’s
inner life with little more that a twinkle in her eye.
One of the things I found interesting was the way in which
this film depicted the Royal family as a real family. The Queen repeats that her biggest concern is
“the boys.” And though this sentiment
comes across as maternal and warm, we never actually witness her interacting
with her grandsons due to her demanding duties as Queen. I also enjoyed the
bird’s eye view of the royal family’s bizarre archaic existence, kilts and
beast stalking included.
My favorite relationship in the movie was one that develops
between the Queen and a stag she meets on the castle grounds. It’s the same beast Prince Philip
and the boys are hunting for sport. The
Queen warns the beast to shoo because he’s not safe. Then, they share a knowing glance, the Queen
suddenly aware that she is not as safe as she’d like to believe either. The next day, when she hears that the beast
has been killed, she goes to see it. It
hangs by its hoof, exposed and fragile.
The Queen relates to this dead animal: her people have hung her out to
dry, choosing to love instead Princess Diana.
Or maybe this is the moment and the way in which the Queen is able to privately
mourn the death of her daughter-in-law.
Another extraordinary filmmaking moment is during Diana’s
funeral. While Diana’s parents and the Royal
family respectfully mourn her inside of the Abbey, a roar of applause enters as
the outside crowds come to their feet clapping.
This appalls the Queen. Although this makes her come across as pretty
bitchy, I did need to remind myself it’s not customary to clap at funerals.
Besides Mirren’s excellent performance, Alex
Jennings portrayed accurately the
recognizable wimp Prince Charles. However, I do wish I had seen more of his
character. This felt to me like a gaping
hole in the story. After all, it was Charles
who linked the Queen to Diana and I felt they
were playing it awfully safe in this film by not exploring this relationship
further. It is, after all, probably the
most important mother son relationship of our time. Michael
Sheen related well as the modernizer, Tony
Also James Cromwell
played Prince Philip about as
crotchety as old British people come. Sylvia
Syms was delightful as The Queen Mother and Roger
Allam towed the line between funny and
serious as Sir Robin.
As I walked out of the theatre, I actually felt a little
disappointed in this movie. It met my
expectations of being a subtle British movie, but it felt at first glance more
like a tribute than a real story.
However, after I let it digest, I found this movie quite brilliant. I found myself saying, “of course I was
disappointed in watching the life of this Queen. Because it wasn’t glamorous or exciting like
a story about Diana would’ve been.” But I’m pretty sure that was the
filmmakers’ goal: to make us ask
ourselves what it is we expect from our rulers.
Have we come to value a good show over a capable ruler? After all, this Queen knew Winston
Churchill, what did I expect her to do, break down and cry on camera? This Queen is no entertainer, she is a ruler.
October 1, 2020