Monday, November 20, 2006
NEW RELEASES The Queen ****
Director: Steven Frears
Cast: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, Helen McCrory, James Cromwell
The Queen begins watching Helen Mirren, in one of the greatest performances this year as Queen Liz, sit in her royal attire staring forward coldly. She is being painted. She pauses to stare straigt at us and the audience feels welcomed to chuckle. Tony Blair is about to be, to her disappointment, elected Prime Minister of the England. Here is a clever, subtle, and wise comedy of manners and drama of opinions. The film takes place the week following the death of Princess Diana (she only appears in stock footage) , where more modernized Blair tries to convince the old fashioned Queen to hold a public funeral for Di. Mirren is shocked by the very idea (why does the entire population of England mourn for her anyway?), and we cower in fear while Sheen marches on, boldy throwing off figures like "70% of the population think your actions have damaged the monarchy." In lesser days Blair would have been beheaded.
The Royal family isn't portrayed as the nicest of families, especially Prince Philip, who, after Diana's children have just learned of her death, casually suggests he take them out hunting again so they'll forget it. Elizabeth the First drinks heavily while watching her daughter's adress to the nation on TV. Outside of the palace, Michael Sheen gives an equally riveting performance as Tony Blair (he played him previously in a TV flim also directed by Shears) and Helen McCrory as his anti royalist wife (she gets a hilarious scene in the beginning of the film).
I'm not sure if any of these things happened in real life but I enjoy watching them. The greatest scene involves a Stag, allowing Mirren to break character and show some humanity, even if, in an epilogue, she seems as cold as ever only a few months after Diana's death (and regrets the television appearance).
Shears has crafted a wonderful film that is almost without flaws. It is a complete escape of the theater in every defintion of the word and a very fun time at the Cinema.