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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Queen

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Judy Thorburn

The Queen

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"THE QUEEN" - HELEN MIREN DELIVERS A ROYAL PORTRAIT

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

No, The Queen is not a movie biography about Elizabeth, the reigning Queen of England. So don’t expect to get her entire life story in only 96 minutes. Instead this film is a revealing look behind the scenes during a specific period of time in the recent past of 1997 when the monarchy was going through a crisis as result of a tragedy that stunned the world. While the world mourned over the senseless, untimely death of the England’s Diana, the “people’s Princess”, in a Paris auto accident, it seemed like the Queen would have rather swept the tragedy under the rug. But according to how the events are presented here, the young progressive minded, newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair had to advise her majesty that she needed to open her eyes and see that her nation’s people were reacting critically to what appeared to be cold and aloof behavior before she wised up and did the right thing.

I said “appeared” because, as a character study of Queen Elizabeth, we learn there is more than meets the eye. There couldn’t have been better actress to portray Queen Elizabeth than the splendid Helen Mirren who, no doubt will get an Oscar nomination for this role. Since this isn’t a Victorian period costume drama, Mirren doesn’t get to parade in glorious clothes and makeup like other historical royals she has portrayed in the past. The living breathing Queen Elizabeth of our time is rather dowdy and plain looking and that’s exactly the look we get from Mirren, who does not really resemble Queen Elizabeth in real life, but (like Philip Seymour Hoffman did last year in his Oscar winning role of Truman Capote) along with the proper make up, she embodies the essence of the Queen to perfection, down to her reserved, stoic manner and physical characteristics.

Princess Diana’s death came at a time when England, looking for a breath of fresh air, had just elected a young, vibrant, modern thinking Tony Blair (lookalike Michael Sheen) as their Prime Minister, which made his outspoken, anti-monarchy wife Cherie (Helen McCrory) the first lady, to boot. Tony being a regular sort of fellow, is shown as wanting to be addressed in a casual manner as Tony, which is just one example of Blair’s stark contrast to the Queen, ruler of an old fashioned monarchy with its conservative strict, protocol. So when Diana died, the tragedy set off a clash between the traditional versus modern, and put the monarchy in crisis. To keep it real, archival footage is integrated that shows Diana doing charity work, being pursued by the paparazzi, news bulletins, people’s reactions to her death, her funeral, etc.

Everyone knows that Princess Diana, the ex wife of the future King of England, wasn’t, to put it mildly, liked by the Queen. Theirs was a strained relationship that was bound only by Diana’s two sons with Prince Charles. So when word reached the Queen of Diana’s death she preferred to keep it a “private, quiet matter” and not respond in a public manner. Of course, this was not well received by the grief stricken nation who displayed their public outpour of love for Diana freely while the Queen kept her silence and did nothing. However, this docu drama reveals a more human and emotional side to Elizabeth in attempting to explain that she was trapped in a situation that was alien to her. But there was more beneath that icy cold exterior that the world rarely gets to see. In Elizabeth’s fifty years of reign she was raised in world that sees duty first, self second and was taught to keep emotions to herself. Born into a privileged, yet controlled environment it was utmost importance to uphold the institution of the monarchy and there was no precedent as to how to handle this type of situation for an estranged and former HRH, who was no longer a member of the royal family. Yet, a pivotal moment in the movie comes when Elizabeth comes face to face with a stag that is being hunted (a metaphor to the paparazzi’s relentless stalking that resulted in Diana’s death). Later after seeing the poor creature dead, it is obvious that she is holding back a tear. Yes, this proves the Queen does have feelings but she is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Prince Philip (James Cromwell) comes across as a heartless, arrogant royal who only cares about the next stag he can hunt down and kill. The Queen mother (Sylvia Syms) has a presence but can only offer what she knows best, advising to Elizabeth reassert her strength and authority that goes along with the ritual bound territory.

So, it is back to Tony Blair to act as go between the people and her highness to smooth everything over and save face for the Queen whose approval rating comes up low in a poll. Under pressure she is forced to come to her senses and respond to the will of the people.

It is said, “Uneasy is the head that wears the crown”. As an examination of that statement, the film questions identity, duty and validity of the monarch’s traditional values and in doing so evokes some sympathy for the Queen’s plight. Of course, who knows what really went on behind closed doors away from the public eye? In any case, director Steven Frears, working from a screenplay by Peter Morgan, delivers a royal treatment.