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Worth A Look: 35.19%
Average: 7.41%
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5 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Queen, The (2006)
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by Erik Childress

"A Film About The Royal Family That’s Just As Much About Us"
5 stars

Believe it or not, we will probably all remember where we were when news broke of the death of Princess Diana, or “Di” to those closest to her. I remember shrugging it off that night trying to remember if she was the first or final member of the “deaths in three” theory. Throughout the week as the outpouring of emotion was greater than anything since perhaps the death of Elvis, my skeptical eye turned to the greater irony that she was being buried on the same day as Mother Teresa. In one corner, a woman who gave up everything to dedicate her life to helping the poor and growing to a ripe old age. In the other, was a woman of beauty married into a life of luxury who became a celebrity first and a philanthropist second. That week was certainly one for the books and Stephen Frears helps to put the whole thing in glorious perspective with this magnificent new film.

Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) has just been voted in as the youngest prime minister in Britain’s history. Among his first duties is to meet with the Queen Mother, Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) and basically get her blessing to run the government on her behalf. It’s an awkward meeting on both sides. The Queen with her proper mannerisms dating back decades from when she first took the throne is not amused at Blair’s informal, but polite insistence on being addressed by his first name instead of his title. His wife (Helen McCrory) also never misses a chance to mock the monarchal traditions and curtsies as she sees appropriate.

Then the tragic news arrives late one evening of Diana’s car accident (its paparazzi chase is partially recreated here) and reactions are varied within the halls of power. Blair, not as an opportunist but a statesman (as President Clinton did), is first on television in the morning expressing his grief and, thanks to his speechwriter, immortalizes Diana as the “people’s princess.” The Queen’s first responsibility is not for public speeches and easing the mourners who knew her only in name and picture, but to her grandchildren and making sure they are shielded from the reminder that their estranged mother is dead. This doesn’t sit well with the people however as public support begins to drift while the numbers grow as The Royal Family makes no effort beyond keeping the whole event is a private matter.

However this is viewed in the court of public opinion, none is beneficial for the monarchy. On one hand it’s no secret of the animosity The Queen held for Diana, expressed in more than a few television interviews with the Princess. Blair’s assistant suggests he ask mum if she “greased the brakes” herself. If not that, then it’s a stubbornness on a Royal level that makes her come off uncaring and cold. Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) is so fearful that someone may be willing to take a shot at him that he begins deflecting the target towards his mom by not so subtly aligning himself with Blair’s point of view. “What kind of people are these,” shouts Blair, an amusing line that winds up encapsulating more than he realizes as sympathizers leave their flowers stamped with messages implicitly putting Diana’s blood on The Queen’s hands.

Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan do a masterful job at letting the events play out while our own criticisms are allowed to simmer and settle at each passing day. We see Diana as most of the world saw her, through television and photographs and it’s a brilliant device of implicating the triangle of her, the press and us into how vast her exposure was and how obsessive the camera and numerous eyes were with her. She commanded the spotlight away from the Royals thanks to her “fairy tale” wedding and the light never dimmed since photogenia is more important to our culture than actions. (When was the last missing girl to garner national media attention who didn’t have blonde hair and white skin?) The public creates celebrities and then forget they are human. It becomes a dirty word synonymous with both leeches and the most vacuous tunnels of our culture. The mere thought of such people attending Diana’s funeral raises ire and when we see Hanks, Spielberg and Cruise walking in together it’s troubling to distance ourselves that they may have indeed been touched deeply by this extinguished soul.

The late Princess is acknowledged as a lamb brought before the slaughter through the underlying sport frequently used by Philip (James Cromwell) to divert his grandkids. Hunting - or as its appropriately referred to in England, “stalking” – leads The Queen to a beautiful moment with the great Buck who has been the prime target during the week. Her empathy for the creature, alone in a world that pursues it for their own glory, is a revealing epiphany amidst the chaos of a society that demands all and when their requests are denied wonder how dare they.

Engravers are standing by to fill in the platelet left blank on this year’s Best Actress statuette for Mirren’s strong, almost tortured performance. She’s magnificent especially in the scenes where mum is meant to remain mum and ponder the decisions of a life that she’s convinced has been all for the people. It’s precisely the kind of role that Judi Dench would have hammed and scowled her way through where Mirren’s silence project the precise kind of royalty the crown deserves. Michael Sheen is equally good and frighteningly resembles the Prime Minister trying to find the commonplace with his Queen for a true changing of the guard in government. Much of the film is a love letter to Blair’s grace under pressure, (one shot eerily resembles one of JFK’s famous photos in the Oval Office during the Bay of Pigs), but the awakening that’s in store for him in the final scene with The Queen makes us want to view each step he took a second time with a different light. Frears’ film is often a brilliant comedy of manners laced with the occasionally appalling undertones that we, the people, often embrace. I, for one, will be reexamining that week with multiple viewings of this film and remember that sometimes it takes a spoiled celebrity like Paris Hilton for us to appreciate that Diana didn’t have to do anything meaningful with her spotlight either.

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originally posted: 10/13/06 14:12:27
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2006 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/03/08 ladavies Helen Mirren was perfect, the movie was very watchable. 4 stars
7/14/07 mb Life has challenges and we always have to bow to dumb things 3 stars
7/09/07 R.W. Welch Adept portrayal of Queen caught in media circus. Acting is uniformly first rate. 4 stars
6/20/07 johnnyfog Mostly suger-coated bullshit, but a nice fable 3 stars
5/30/07 Piz Vibrant, engaging and neat twist on Di's controversy. Brought to life very well. impressiv 4 stars
5/29/07 Monday Morning Refreshingly free of car chases and explosions; something to think about for a change. 4 stars
5/18/07 Phil M. Aficionado 4.5 stars, but an added one for the character development/projection. Honest all the way. 5 stars
5/04/07 Lynn Good, but slow and boring. The Queen needs to get laid once in a while. 4 stars
4/30/07 Total Crap lol, isn't prince charles supposed to be ugly? 4 stars
4/20/07 Mermaid's Pedicurist Why couldn't they get someone to play Prince Charles who looked ANYTHING like him? 4 stars
4/18/07 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
2/12/07 MP Bartley H.M. forever! (Helen Mirren, not Her Majesty). 4 stars
2/02/07 ES Enjoyable, it's nice to get a look at boths sides of the equation 4 stars
1/23/07 orpy really good, not great 4 stars
12/13/06 Rick Superbly subtle propoganda 4 stars
11/22/06 jdean62 EXCELLENT... the actiing alone is worth seeing this film... I smell OSCAR !!!! 5 stars
11/17/06 Suzz Mirren's performance is fine but the film is no more than an average tv movie 3 stars
11/12/06 malcolm excellent performances all around, but subject matter just didn't interest me much 4 stars
11/10/06 Elizabeth Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen are terrific. Heartbreaking reliving the tragedy. 5 stars
11/08/06 coolbyrne Absolutely stunning performance. Cannot recommend enough. 5 stars
10/27/06 Tiffany Losco This was a great movie. 5 stars
10/10/06 Lauren Helen Mirren gives an amazing performance. A Movie which has Oscar written all over it. 5 stars
10/10/06 Rich Cirivilleri Helen Mirren is going to win the 2006 best actress oscar for this performance. 5 stars
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  30-Sep-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Apr-2007



Directed by
  Stephen Frears

Written by
  Peter Morgan

  Helen Mirren
  Michael Sheen
  James Cromwell
  Sylvia Syms
  Paul Barrett
  Helen McCrory

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