The Queen
Director: Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity, Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Writer: Peter Morgan
Producers: Tracey Seaward, Andy Harries, Christine Langan
Starring: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings,
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 97 min
read my spoiler disclaimer



reviewed by Andrew James
     Expectations are everything these days. Everyone seemed to be abuzz with Helen Mirren's performance as Queen Elizabeth II and I had to see what all the fuss was about for myself. Fully expecting a lengthy, boring drama featuring stuffy, British royalty, I entered the theater with much trepidation. Fortunately, there is far more to this tale than just the actors' terrific performances.

      The story, though word for word is impossible to substantiate as absolute fact, takes place within the walls of Buckingham Palace, Balmoral and 10 Downing Street; mostly within the days between Princess Diana's death and her funeral in September of 1997. The people are in shock and in mourning, The Monarchy prefers to do or say little and make no fuss, while the newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is caught in the middle. It is modernization vs conservativism at it's "best"; all intertwined within a real international tragedy.

      First of all, the obvious: the performances. Not enough can be said about the actors' range and abilities throughout the picture. Especially Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Blair. Mirren recently took home the Golden Globe for best actress and I have no doubt will take home an Oscar as well. There is no point in elaborating. It is a must-see performance. Beside Mirren is a whole cast of magnificense that brings the normal stuffy world of politics into an amazing array of anger, sadness, confidence, intrigue and even humor. And in this case, even the pompousness and stuffiness is entertaining. Everybody brings something to the table and not enough can be said about the cast. Easily one of the better ensembles of the year.

      The director chooses to use a lot of archival and news footage, so even Diana herself makes some appearances to bring us all back to a decade ago and help us remember how hectic and captivating those few days were in world history. Having said that, there really isn't a whole that is going on throughout the story. It really doesn't get much simpler than this. This film is a study in characterization and dialogue. But the characters and screenwriters bring such a dramatic flair to their jobs that it's impossible to look away.

      One reason for my enjoyment of the film I think, is my lack of knowledge regarding British politics. It was fun to see how the chain of command works between parliamant and the royal family. Although the King and Queen have no real power, everything is run past them for their approval and sometimes their unapproval. In '97, in the wake of Diana's death, their popularity took a damaging blow and it's interesting to see their spats with the media, the people and the real government all at once. And not only do we get the headlines with The Queen, but we get to see all the behind the scenes conversations and ideas that we don't normally get to see as everyday citizens.

      Besides all of this, the film itself is gorgeous. From the insides of the various governement buildings to the glorious shots of the British country-side, there's always something to look at. One scene in particular caught my attention and solidified my near-love of this film. It involves The Queen next to her broken down car in the middle of a stream. A 14 point stag approaches from her rear and as she turns to look, a single tear rolls down her cheek and it is a breathtakingly gorgeous shot. There are several of these landscape shots as well as remarkable recreations of iconic memories leading up to and including Diana's funeral. This includes the papparzi chase scene and also the 1000s of people and the flowers they've placed outside of Buckingham palace just to name a few.

      With initially little interest in The British Monarchy, I was astounded at how much I really enjoyed this film. Those of you with more interest in the royal family may be captivated even more; and most of us are old enough to remember the days following Lady Di's death and the HUGE funeral that followed, so it was interesting to watch all of the infighting that was ocurring while the rest of us were in mourning. If you want guns blazing and car chases, this obviously ain't your thing. If you like to a view a film for it's sparkly dialogue, charismatic characters and a simple look at a true story that shook the world, you're in for a treat with The Queen.



Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer


Links:
MoviePatron Cinecast Episode #33 - discussing The Queen
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER PROFILE for The Queen




 





drewbacca@moviepatron.com