18 ago. 2010

My Review: The Queen (8/10)

¨That's the way we do things in this country, quietly, with dignity. That's what the rest of the world has always admired us for. ¨

The Queen will mostly be remembered for Helen Mirren`s Oscar winning performance as Queen Elizabeth II which was just remarkable. She absolutely nailed the role of this widely known public figure and really captured her essence. Her physical resemblance with the Queen helped, but her mannerism and expressions were also outstanding. The only disappointing thing about her performance is that it overshadowed some other important elements the movie had. First of all Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Dirty Pretty Things, The Grifters) did a great job with the direction which gave him his second nomination for best director, Michael Sheen was also excellent in his portrayal of Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the most important element of all that has been overshadowed by Mirren`s performance was the screenplay that was beautifully written by Peter Morgan (The Damned United, Frost/Nixon, and The Last King of Scotland). Morgan wrote a very believable story about what happened inside the Queen`s summer residence during the week of Princess Diana`s death. The scenes felt very real and sincere and there were also several funny and clever lines as well. Morgan never takes any sides on the issue and gives a fair portrayal of what might actually have occurred on those days before Diana`s funeral took place. I think he deserved a lot more credit then he actually got because he really did a great job researching for the story and made the film look more like a documentary than an actual fictional one. Helen Mirren`s spectacular performance however makes it easy for us to overlook those elements.

The film begins with Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) winning the elections by a landslide and becoming Britain`s youngest Prime Minister of the century. Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) is watching the news on TV while she is getting her portrait drawn by an artist and regrets not being able to vote.  The Queen isn`t very excited about the new young Prime Minister, but they meet in Buckingham Palace and she makes the title official. The movie then jumps forward three months later when Diana suffers an accident in Paris. Real news footage is used for the movie covering the incident and we see how the Royal family receives the news in their summer residence in Balmoral Castle, as well as Tony Blair back in London. Blair`s director of communication, Alastair Campbell (Mark Bazeley), writes a speech for him realizing that her death has had a huge impact in the world and that a live speech honoring her would be necessary. Blair`s popularity rises even more after his great speech in which he calls Diana ¨the people`s princess, ¨ a title that has stuck with her ever since.  The Royal family takes a different approach and decides this is a private matter and that no public speech should be necessary. Queen Elizabeth`s mother (Sylvia Syms) and Prince Phillip (James Cromwell) aren`t very fond of Diana and agree with Elizabeth that she is no longer a member of the Royal family.  Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) on the other hand recognizes that the public will see them as the enemy if they don`t empathize with their loss, so he asks Blair to try to convince her mother to make a public statement. The movie focuses on this dark week for the Royal family in which the tabloids tried to force the Queen to make some sort of statement, while she struggled with coping with her death privately and maintaining the Royal tradition.

The Queen is a very well written drama with some powerful performances and it is perhaps a very realistic portrayal of what went on inside the Royal residence during those days in which no public statement was made. Diana`s death was a very memorable event for those of us who were alive during the time and we all remember where we were when we first heard the news. It remains a very memorable event in our heads and that is why it was so important for the movie to feel real, and Morgan`s script contributed to that along with the performances from Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen. The scene where the Queen encounters the impressive stag was very powerful and serves as a great metaphor in this movie. There are several different views of what the stag actually represents, but I believe it represented royalty and how fragile it has become. The Queen identified with such a magnificent creature and realized that she would have to change her approach in order to survive. Blair was perhaps the only one from his office (even his wife, portrayed really well by Helen McCrory, was against monarchy) who identified with the Queen. The movie may only be remembered in history for Mirren`s excellent portrayal of the Queen, but I think there is much more to it than just that. 

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