Jennifer Merin reviews “The Queen”
THE QUEEN REIGNS SUPREME
When Lady Diana Spencer died in August, 1997 in a disastrous car collision in Paris, people in mourning around the globe wanted to honor the former Princess of Wales with a state funeral. But Buckingham Palace, no longer considering Diana a royal, wanted the funeral held privately, away from the limelight that had followed her and her troubled affairs from the time shed become HRH until her untimely death.
Queen Elizabeths initial refusal to recognize Dianas importance to the British public seriously undermined the authority of the monarchy. At one point one in four Brits thought the royals and their privileges should go.
The Queen gives us a penetrating behind-the-scenes glimpse at how HRH Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) and the royal family are forced to take hold of the situation and, following the advice of newly elected Labor Party Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), deal with and survive the crisis.
Making a biopic about a still-reigning monarch is tricky business all the more so when the movie focuses on such well-known events. Therere issues about protocol, access and accuracy, and a legitimate concern about exploitation and scandal mongering further to that already seen from a gossip-hungry press.
But never mind all that. From its first to last minute, The Queen consistently serves its constituents with honesty, insight and carefully researched detail. By seamlessly mixing staged scenes with archival news footage and specially created archival footage, director Stephen Frears convincingly presents the events and captures the emotion-filled ambience of that historic moment. Frears approach is unfailingly sensitive, subtle and compelling. Peter Morgans brilliant script is rich with wit and poignancy. Using the ongoing metaphor of a stalked stag, Morgan reveals the Queens monarchic angst in a most remarkably moving way.
And all hail Helen Mirren, the reigning Queen of Cinema! Watching her is like having a private audience with royalty, and you will never royal-watch the same way again. She portrays Elizabeth II as an exceptionally strong woman who struggles painfully and privately to uphold the burdensome vow shes taken to spend her entire life serving her people. Mirren clearly commands Oscar consideration.
The rest of the cast gives stellar performances, too, especially James Cromwell as Prince Philip and Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mum.
The Queen is timely, fascinating, thoroughly engaging. It crowns this years list of best films.