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In 1997, after the death of Lady Di in a car accident in Paris, the
reluctant Queen (Helen Mirren) and The Establishment do not accept to
honor the "People's Princess" as a member of the Royal Family. However,
the public and the media question the utility of the monarchy and the
just-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) advises the
Queen to make a public speech mourning the loss of Diana.
"The Queen" is probably the best performance of Helen Mirren in the cinema. This film reconstitutes the days after the death of Lady Di, showing the conservative and cold behavior of the Royal Family, and how the people questioned the reason for being of the parasite monarchy. Stephen Frears entwines archive footages with his filming and the result is a good movie, especially for those viewers that followed carefully those days. I am not sure whether the attention (and grieving) of the Queen with the stag shot by a guest is real or fictional to know whether this scene was manipulative or really happened, but it is very impressive. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "A Rainha" ("The Queen")
I am British and I arrived in Paris to settle here the weekend that
Princess Diana died. I spent my first week watching news of the
aftermath in the French press and TV. So this movie, apart from
anything else, showed me the events through the British media for the
first time. Like everyone else, I watched the funeral on television and
was riveted by Di's brother's speech which seemed then and now to be
Shakespearean in its drama, summing up the tension between her and the
royal family's claim on the public's loyalty. "I come to praise Diana,
not to bury her..."
Peter Watson and Stephen Frears have made an excellent movie and Helen Mirren doesn't need my endorsement for her spectacular performance. (I saw Penelope Cruz in Volver not long ago and the fight for the actress's Oscar is going to be epic this year). I was struck by the wonderful pacing of the plot and would credit the music score for a good deal of that.
My emotional engagement with the movie was unusually high. I was close to tears a lot of the time, especially towards the end. This leads me to speculate about why. I think the key is something Shakespeare and Walter Scott knew well, that the audience will be on the edge of their seats when the drama concerns events in recent history they have lived through themselves. (The best movie example of this I know is Oliver Stone's Nixon.) Society is very mysterious to us and we don't normally have access to its effects on us. But when the actors are Princess Di the most famous woman in the world, Queen Elizabeth and her dysfunctional family, Tony Blair and his power crazy New Labour henchmen (a withering portrayal of press secretary, Alistair Campbell), we see society as we lived it a decade ago personified through them and it gives us a window on ourselves.
To take one scene, the Queen returns to Buckingham Palace to find crowds of people and flowers (some with very unkind messages attached). A little girl gives her some flowers of her own and a line of women curtsy in traditional deference as she walks along. I found myself snuffling at this point. Why? I am not a monarchist, far from it. I want the whole lot out. But I have absorbed so much of British society in intangible ways and that scene showed me what I must struggle against if I want to change it.
There is no question that Queen Elizabeth is immensely reinforced by this movie. She wins, in a manner of speaking. But the future of the monarchy after she goes is uncertain. It becomes clear that she personifies the refusal of the British people to come to terms with their loss of empire and indeed lost greatness. She is the hair of the dog for their long post-imperial hangover. The British people have changed in her lifetime. They are more sentimental, less stoical than before. Maybe one day soon they will wake up from the nostalgia she represents. Maybe Blair's fall from grace, foretold by the Queen at the end of this movie, will be one catalyst for that.
Frears brilliantly recreates that royal events surrounding the tragic and sudden death of the people of England's beloved princess. The focus is on the royal family, particularly Queen Elizabeth and what may have gone in her mind during this ordeal. Frears attempts to give an impartial view of the event and sticks to the main point. He cleverly uses live footage of the late princess and combines it within the film. The cinematography and quick cuts are very effective. Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen give standout performances. No doubt it must have been difficult to play both parts but the two actors pull it off without hassle. Even as Queen Elizabeth (one of the most unsexiest queen), Mirren looks sexy and not in a way that distracts the viewer from the character. It's remarkable how she so accurately displays the nuances of the title character. I'm glad that Michael Sheen finally got a role to display his wonderful acting abilities. James Cromwell and Sylvia Sims are equally good in their roles respectively as the Queen's husband and mother. Helen McCrory makes Cherie Blair look pretty. My only small complaint is that, the film, at times, moves at a very slow pace but otherwise this is a well made movie that gives a glimpse of how the tragic event might have affected the royal family.
Stephen Frears surely knows how to start and end a movie, skills that
amazingly rare to judge from what's in the world.
This film begins with a small vignette, having nothing at all to do with the story, but introducing the character Helen Mirren plays. That beginning bit begins withe her being imaged for public exposure and then looking directly at the camera as if to say: this, this is the portrait of me.
She is one of two queens in the story, the other being the ghost of Diana who is shown only in reference and only in public exposure.
The official queen is shown at home, watching TeeVee, and frumping around the estate. The story is a rather gauzy one. Part of it is the delving into deviance of (usually English) society, the one thing Frears does well in the middle of his movies. In this case we see the inexplicable business of a monarchy which exists solely to keep a national story suspended. The story is threatened and some sort of a national crisis is averted. Its engaging because every viewer will have lived through that period and this gives peeks into corners we may have wondered about at the time.
A second component of the movie is the supposed examination of character of this woman, and the huzzas that Mirren gets for her portrayal. We celebrate the performance only because the movie as a whole works. I can think of a dozen Mirren performances that are better suited to celebration. Ho hum. We see her grieve more for an animal than for Diana, act more out of fear than honor. We see Blair our designated observer in the story superficially evolve.
A third component has to do with the introspection in the thing. And that is the only bit I can recommend (other than the opening which it supports). The deal is all about story. Nations require a story so they can know who they are. The Brits aren't the most ridiculous people on the planet, but they are the ones who have most explored the foibles of their own national story in their art, so their introspection makes them appear more silly than the rest of us.
That national story includes the necessity of actors, so they hire a few nitwits to dress up and pretend to be monarchs. They are simply actors, no more. So the deal with this film is that we have an actress, Mirren, playing an actress who examines her role. Its a meaty opportunity and thank god we didn't get Dench, who I suppose would have been shoehorned in if not for her appearance. And it isn't that Mirren isn't intelligent enough to be an actor that shows how acting works. But Frears isn't interested and Mirren's style is more about showing her commitment to the role rather than exploring our commitment to it.
But that opening. Excellent.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
As a history teacher, I found "The Queen" to be very interesting but
also a bit frustrating. You get a behind the scenes look at a very
trying period for the royal family and you get to see them with their
guard down. However, just how true is this? Who are the sources? How
closely to the actual story is it and where does it diverge? I just
don't know and I suspect very few do.
"The Queen" is about a very brief period of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Specifically it covers the death of Diana Spencer and the subsequent unprecedented reaction from the public. The film specifically focuses on the Queen and Tony Blair but you also get some insights into Prince Charles (mostly very positive) and Prince Philip (mostly horrendous).
I appreciated the acting of Helen Mirren and I wasn't at all surprised to see that she received the Oscar for her performance. She was excellent--though the film was full of excellent all around. Wonderful acting and production values make this a must-see for film buffs. I also appreciated seeing these folks humanized--such as the Queen driving herself and using the word 'bugger'!
beautiful, interesting, profound, real delight. movie of an actress. fresco of a slice from U.K. recent history.a jewel and subject of reflection. basic question - is it a true story ? it is difficult to say. so, the main gain is a impeccable performance and interesting recreation of atmosphere. Helen Mirren is amazing. and this is only fact who counts. because it is not exactly a portrait of queen Elizabeth II but demonstration of refined art of Helen Mirren. she is the Queen, a Queen from many others versions. credible, fragile, vulnerable and powerful. and this is basic virtue of film - humanization of a symbol.a window to a family and its system of affective protection. and the work is impressive.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Queen is a British drama film directed by Stephen Frears, written
by Peter Morgan, and starring Helen Mirren in the title role, Elizabeth
II of the United Kingdom. Released almost a decade after the event, the
film depicts a fictional account of the immediate events following the
death of Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997. Helen Mirren
played Queen Elizabeth I together with Michael Sheen,James
Cromwell,Helen McCrory,Alex Jennings,Roger Allam and Sylvia Syms.
The main plot focuses on the differing views in how to deal with the death of Diana. The Royal Family, while on their summer residence at Balmoral Castle, sees her death as a private affair, not to be treated as an official Royal death, in contrast with newly appointed Prime Minister Tony Blair and Diana's ex-husband Prince Charles, who attempt to reflect the public wish for an official expression of grief. Matters are further complicated by the media, royal protocol regarding Diana's official status, and wider issues about republicanism.
Full of wit, humor, and pathos, this moving portrait of the British royals during the period after Princess Diana's death features not one but two remarkable performances, that of Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Sheen as the newly-ordained Prime Minister Tony Blair. They embody their characters and lay bare the motivations behind these prominent people, giving viewers a glimpse into the inner workings of the British monarchy.This movie allows us to understand just how heavy the crown really sits and what is it like to be the Queen.In summary,it was an unqualified triumph that works on all levels.
The film is focused entirely on the period of Princess Diana's death
and the period upto the funeral a week later. In common with most
people from the UK that is something that is very much etched in the
memory, so the film does very little in terms of information. I can
certainly vouch for it's accuracy although the reaction does seem a
little over the top in retrospect.
Mirren puts in a fine performance as the Queen and you certainly couldn't quibble about the Oscar recognition. Although the historical content is very accurate it is impossible to comment on the accuracy of the royal characters. The film seems to adopt the stereotypical representation of the royals and it is quite possible this is correct. The royals are so detached though that it is hard to say this for sure.
The film is really about whether the monarchy can survive even though they aren't aware they are under such close scrutiny. I found the film quite entertaining and it's really a docu drama. You can also see little indications that it was originally meant to be a TV film. It will not change your life, but it's reasonably entertaining.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Helen Miren portrays Queen Elizabeth II with such grace it was astonishing. The other actors and actresses were good and their parts interesting but "The Queen" is the story of the challenges to not only Elizabeth's monarchy but to her person. When I was in 4th or 5th grade I read a book about Elizabeth and Margaret as children by Marion Crawford titled "The Little Princesses". Since I am what is known as a baby-boomer I grew up in a time that went from respect, manners and tradition to familiarity, bluntness and spontaneity. There is strength and fault in both worlds and typical misunderstandings of generations follow these shifts. I am fortunate to have known from that book how the royal family presented itself to the public in the 40's and 50's so when Princess Diana died my heart went out to the Royal family, Diana's family and the people of Britain. As an American growing up in a family that honored Britain and the British it was sad to see the pain and disillusionment Diana's death caused and or revealed. Not only did two young boys loose their mother but the country who loved her became estranged into pro monarchy and anti monarchy factions. This film has moments that made me very uncomfortable, probably because I found it embarrassing to see private family talk turned into what a film writer thought it was. I was most disappointed in the portrayal of the Queen Mother. But death does force us to examine our feelings and deal with them if we expect to move on and that is what this film shows in the end. It honors all those millions of people who wept for Diana, her sons and family and it shows that the Royal Family capitulated to public demands when it became obvious to do otherwise would cause more internal strife and pain. The Queen above all else loves, respects and cherishes her country and it's people. She grew up in another era and it is difficult to become open, emotional and give up tradition when you have learned from the cradle that tradition is what keeps things going smoothly. Be sure you read something about the time when Queen Elizabeth II was a child before you judge her to harshly. I think she is truly a blessing for her people.
HELEN MIRREN is, of course, the focal point in THE QUEEN, but MICHAEL
SHEEN as Tony Blair certainly more than matches her in the role of
Britain's youngest prime minister. The two of them give towering
performances that will remain indelibly impressed on your mind after
viewing the film. Mirren is all crisp elegance and Sheen is a charmer
who knows how to use his powers of persuasion. Both of them are ideally
cast in roles they seem to inhabit with consummate ease.
The screenplay deals with the unpleasant private events unfolding at the palace while the public mourning was obviously so great that it had to be acknowledged. The Queen preferred keeping tight-lipped and dignified, obviously not a woman who was pleased with Diana's conduct. Nor was her husband Prince Philip (JAMES CROMWELL) or Prince Charles (ALEX JENNINGS) who at least reminded his mother that Diana loved her children dearly.
Handsomely photographed with newsreel footage of the crowds that began swelling shortly after Diana's demise in that tragic accident, its dialog is convincing throughout, concise and to the point without any frills whatsoever. The only weakness in the casting would seem to be SYLVIA SYMS as the Queen Mother who somehow doesn't look the role.
The original background score by Alexandre Desplat is worthy of note, always appropriate and sometimes majestic. The scene with The Queen seeing the stag on the hillside while waiting for her car to be repaired is a standout, beautifully played.
Summing up: A rare treat, and a slice of history well worth remembering with the shift from the old monarchy to the modernized ideas of a young Prime Minister emphasized in the script.
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