|The Queen (***1/2)
review by Jon
While vacationing in Balmoral, the Royal Family is notified
that Princess Diana was killed in an automobile crash in Paris.
They do not react. Newly appointed Prime Minister Tony Blair
gives a public address commending the Lady Di for her charity
work and societal contributions, in the process calling her
the “people’s princess.” As the days go on,
the British people grow increasingly disillusioned with the
royal family’s apparent lack of acknowledgment or concern.
No statement has been made, no special arrangements, and no
return to Buckingham Palace. The disparity between the people
and the monarch that rules over it is in the midst of a temporal
shift the likes of which Queen Elizabeth II has never seen.
I’m sure it’s impossible to tell, especially for
a relatively non-political young American such as myself, if
this chain of events is accurate. However, anyone who sees
the movie can tell you that it’s certainly not important.
I don’t care if the exchanges behind closed doors didn’t
actually take place; I only care that they make sense within
the context of the film and help further the plot. It’s
probably a safe bet that the film hits all the key points that
the public sector saw back in 1997 when the tragedy took place,
but that’s probably where the historical accuracies end.
That’s perfectly fine.
What makes this movie great is the human condition displayed
on the screen. The Queen and the Prime Minister are given a
deeper voice than their public office personas would allow.
They often get into heated, yet civil arguments with one another.
Elizabeth finds herself put on the defensive constantly as
she explains to him about the Royal tradition and how she’s
not about to change for a death that occurred outside of the
Royal Family. Meanwhile, when discussing the issues with her
family, we see behind the statuesque presence and stone-faced
visage. Her conversations with them express the doubts in the
feelings conveyed to Blair and brings to light that there are
deeper problems at hand that the public simply is not thinking
of on their own.
Like I said, I don’t know how much of it is pure characterization
and how much is based on gathered information, but I’d
certainly like to believe that the woman we see on screen is
the true Eliazbeth II: mother and grandmother first, Queen
second. Helen Mirren does nothing short of validating that
belief. Her portrayal of a person that’s poised and calculated
on the outside and torn and frustrated on the inside is a marvel
to watch. She makes it look so easy.
Director Stephen Frears makes sure that all the other elements
look equally uncomplicated. The picture looks great, giving
us breathtaking images of the wide-reaching landscapes. Peter
Morgan’s script is the first and most important step
in allowing us to easily see the situation from both sides
equally, a crucial component into making the film so understatedly
powerful. They all just make it seem so simple, which is probably
just how the Queen would prefer it. Neat and uncomplicated
on the surface while keeping all the necessary turmoil and
hard work hidden.
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