In honor of the Golden Globe nominations and the race for Oscar, here’s a rebroadcast of my review of The Queen from when it originally opened in October of 2006.
Paparazzi Kissed the Princess, 9 October 2006
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
The paparazzi kissed the princess that fateful week in 1997, but all the English people wanted was their Queen. Stephen Frears’ competent, well written, expertly cast and intimate look into the Royal Family and British government in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death is a straightforward, no-nonsense stunner.
Operating both as a comedy of manners where the newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (an excellent Michael Sheen) must save the Royal Family from themselves before the Monarchy is tossed aside completely by an angry, guilt-ridden public desperately wanting a statement, a word of comfort, or at very least the presence in London of their Queen Elizabeth II (played masterfully by Helen Mirren, who is as cold and stubborn here as she was conflicted and passionate as Elizabeth I in the HBO miniseries of the same name earlier this year), and also as a surprisingly touching testament to the British people’s love affair with Princess Diana and more importantly the Monarchy, “The Queen” succeeds splendidly on multiple levels.
Frears combines archival footage of a grieving public and newscasts with intertwining splices of historical recreations and fictionalized riffs on what it must’ve been like inside the Royal Chambers. The writers get the mannerisms of the Royals down perfect, as people with stiff upper lips who declare their outrage with words like “quite” and “that’s not how it’s done!” One miscalculation is when the writers try to create a connection between Blair’s love for his deceased mother and his newfound sense of protectionism over Elizabeth. It’s only surface level, and Freudian, and seems rather out of place in an otherwise totally British film. The rest of the Royals serve as a sideshow, with Prince Charles wimpy and ineffective in the presence of his mother, Prince Phillip (James Cromwell) a rowdy lout, and the Queen Mother (Sylvia Sims) providing equal parts comic relief and aristocratic wisdom to her daughter.
In the end, “The Queen” is a film that sneaks up on you, funnier and more touching than you imagined, and anchored by a classic turn from a consummate British actress as a Queen who desires to understand her people and do them proud while honoring the traditions of her lineage.
Originally published on the Internet Movie Database