Review: The Queen

Duh…It’s about Queen Elizabeth II (an Oscar-winning turn by Dame Helen Mirren), the recent death of Princess Diana, the public’s disbelief at the Royals’ lack of public acknowledgment of the tragic event and overall rigidity, and how recently elected PM Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) would work to bridge the gap between the seemingly out-of-touch Monarchy and the sentimental public, who adored Diana (perhaps in some ways, doing much to prop himself up a bit, too).

I’ve got to disagree with many (mostly American) people who suggest this solid, if mostly unsurprising 2006 Stephen Frears (“The Grifters”, “Prick Up Your Ears”) film would work better for Brits than anyone else. As an Australian, I’m more aware of the monarchy than say the Americans, and I think that made this sometimes intentionally comical film a bit hard to take. The Queen and her family are seen to do and say things that whilst quite possible (I’m reliably informed that she did indeed drive her own car at least at some point) looked a little silly and unbelievable to me. Americans might swallow this sort of thing easier, being far away from it all. Furthermore, the characters of Charles (Alex Jennings doesn’t even come close to looking or sounding like him), Prince Phillip (James Cromwell looks convincing enough, even if his accent comes and goes a bit), and to a lesser degree The Queen Mother (amusingly played by dotty old Sylvia Sims) are caricatures, and in the case of Charles, confusingly drawn.

That said, there is still much to admire in this interesting, if overrated film, notably the fascinatingly strange (and strained) relationship between Liz and Tony. Mirren doesn’t give the greatest acting performance of all-time, but you do eventually accept her in the role so much so that you forget about Helen altogether and just watch the damn film. Nothing to sneeze at to be sure, but rock-solid. Arguably even more impressive is the dead-on performance by Sheen as the admittedly favourably portrayed PM Tony Blair (Helen McCrory is hilarious as his wife Cherie, playing her as the snarky anti-Monarchist we’ve all read about).
Scripted by Peter Morgan (“Hereafter”, “The Last King of Scotland”, “Frost/Nixon”), it manages to be reasonably tasteful in regards to the whole Diana affair, whilst still representing both sides of the issue (Liz and her brood had a very different view of Diana at the time of her death, due to her being no longer a Royal, but the public adored her- and still do).
Rating: B-


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