Thursday, 01 October 2020
The Queen
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 07 November 2006 21:23

Jolly Good Show

Not being a “Royal Watcher”, and really not paying much attention to the British Monarchy in general, I had no real attachment to the idea of an entire movie entitled The Queen. But hey, Borat wasn’t playing yet, so I decided to give it a try! I came away with a newfound respect and admiration for a woman that has had more than her share of troubles but remains stoic in the public eye. It is that stoicism that provides the theme for this movie.

The year is 1997, a year of change for Britain. Tony Blair has just been elected Prime Minister and represents a progressive political front, one that won’t be as apt to take cues from a tired monarchy. During the opening scenes, Queen Elizabeth II wakes on the morning following elections, already resigned to the news of Blair’s win. She may not like the idea of this young upstart in office, but is already preparing to receive him. During their first official meeting, Blair blunders his way through, but not without charm.

The film takes place over the week of Princess Diana’s death. It was a time of upheaval for the Royal Family as they struggled to protect the young Prince’s, and keep out of the public eye. In this portrayal, the Queen herself doesn’t know how to react to such an outpouring of public emotion. Diana has meant only trouble for her family and now she is expected to console the nation in mourning? She retreats to the family’s country estate and for the first time in fifty years she feels out of touch with her people.

This movie is a very intimate portrayal of the Royal Family that does something I have never seen before. It depicts the royals as a normal family living under one roof (albeit a very large roof), eating, sleeping and watching television at bedtime. The Queen Mum is a spitfire old woman, who can’t believe it when the plans for her own funeral are “borrowed” for Diana. She is even more shocked that celebrities will attend, especially Elton John! Prince Phillip is depicted as a bit of a blowhard, but there is unmistakable intimacy between he and Elizabeth that comes from long years of marriage. Prince Charles consoles his children, and borders on paranoia about his own mortality.

As emotion runs high, support for the monarchy declines and Tony Blair realizes that this may cause permanent damage. With suitable restraint, he tries to convince the Queen that she should return to London, raise the flag at half-mast and make a public statement about Diana’s death. Though she resists, Elizabeth begins to see that in order to survive she must adapt.

The performance of Helen Mirren is what makes this film so riveting to watch. She plays Elizabeth as a strong, outdoorsy woman who has no problem getting her feet wet, literally. In one scene she wastes no time jumping out of her Jeep into a stream to dissect a mechanical problem. It is a side of the Queen that we rarely get to witness, but is part of what makes her such an intriguing public figure. To live her life, she does have to be strong.

Michel Sheen is the other standout as Tony Blair. I think he has a strong chance at Best Supporting Actor.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was! Many scenes are downright funny. Director Stephen Frears has created one of the most interesting movies of the year.

I give The Queen 8 out of 10.