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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.19%
Average: 7.41%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Queen, The (2006)
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by brianorndorf

"Helen Mirren vs. Princess the death!"
5 stars

Sure, it looks like an afternoon watching paint dry, but “The Queen” is a striking portrait of waning power and the grind of the publicity machine. Lead by a stunning performance from Helen Mirren, the film is a tightly-wound drama that sheds new light on the death of Princess Diana.

In the summer of 1997, Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) was faced with an unfamiliar wave of change when Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) won the majority vote to become Britain’s new Prime Minister. As Blair and the Queen begin to explore their icy relationship, the progress is cut short by the news that Princess Diana is killed in a car crash, leaving the nation stunned. Unable to appropriately respond to the death in a way that pleases the public, a game of publicity is waged behind the scenes as Blair sits uncomfortably while the Royal Family waits an interminable amount of time to acknowledge the passing of a beloved icon.

“The Queen” is a tale of fiction, but I’m inclined to believe every last moment of it. The picture invites the viewer to watch as a political institution is dropped to its knees, but in traditionally stiff-upper-lip ways. As thin as the story might appear, this is a corker of a drama, shedding light within the dark halls of Buckingham Palace, and giving new appreciation to a Queen who was pushed aside in popularity when she failed to play a modern publicity game effectively.

Director Stephen Frears depicts the summertime death of Diana as a first shot fired in an emotional cold war, ripping open wounds all across the country as the public swarmed the Palace to pay their respects. This woman went from a paparazzi-hunted, charity-inclined, global curiosity to an absolute saint virtually overnight, leaving all those who knew her in a state of shock, and those who detested her now unable to expunge the sour taste from their mouth. As reported over the years, Diana was not loved by the Royal Family, supplying screenwriter Peter Morgan heaps of dramatic ammo to intertwine a story that exploits those animosities, using a backdrop of global mourning to illustrate the realities of the Queen and the changing times that opened her eyes.

“The Queen” blends fact and fiction splendidly. Using actual television footage of Diana and the weeklong memorial gathering, Frears lends the picture a sharp realism to balance with the invention. It’s hard to believe we are nearing the 10th anniversary of Diana’s death, and “Queen” ushers back all those feelings of confusion, anger, and sorrow that marked the moment in time. The television coverage is the perfect springboard to ponder the Royal side of the tragedy. What did they feel when Diana died? Why did they wait so long to issue a statement?

Morgan’s script covers all this and more, describing a Queen who was mystified that she was expected to participate in the mourning, especially following the royal expulsion of Diana after her divorce from Charles. Born into privilege and honor, the Queen is genuinely stunned to see her country and its rabid, unforgiving press turn on her. Frears furthers the idea of personal doubt by inching the walls closer in on her with each passing day she fails to give in to the public’s demands.

Tony Blair is shown as a bright-eyed idealist who is caught between his duty to his enthusiastic supporters and the seduction of the crown’s history. Wonderfully played by Sheen, Blair is a family man, swallowing pints of fear as he tries to nudge the Queen into submission, and at the same time, finding himself defending her when the criticisms begin to sour and turn personal.

The most interesting characterization is Prince Charles. Seen here as a deviously manipulative wimp, fearful of his mother and beholden to his own selfish concerns, Charles superficially cares about the death of his ex, but is more paranoid that others will want to shoot him as an act of retaliation for his martial woes. Actor Alex Jennings really has his work cut out for him with this iconic role, yet he digs in there bravely to portray Charles’s less than noble intentions, along with inhabiting his pressed speaking style and tightly wound face.

Acting as a sun that the rest of the film revolves around, Helen Mirren’s performance can only be described as perfection. The cast is remarkable in their own ways, but Mirren’s portrayal of the Queen is complex, stately, and vulnerable in every second of screentime. Morgan’s script contains a subplot where the Queen empathizes with a hunted buck on her estate, allowing Mirren two moments where her growing feelings of fear are expressly underlined. Trouble is, the film doesn’t need this distraction because the range of emotion is registered in Mirren’s every move. It’s the one rancid ingredient in the whole recipe, and the solitary time Frears doesn’t trust his lead actress.

From the outside, I know “The Queen” might seem like a bore, or at least a depressing bit of speculation. However, I assure you, this motion picture gets nearly every dramatic beat right, and gives the death of Princess Diana a whole new meaning and emotional dimension.

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originally posted: 09/30/06 06:47:52
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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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