Mar 2, 2008

[Movies] The Queen

The QueenI've never been very big on the British Monarchy, really. It's not that I don't like them, it's more that I don't see the point and thus I don't really put all that much effort into understanding them and the entire structure of their government. You have to admit, it's not exactly the norm these days for kings and queens to still walk amongst us mortals, so to speak.

Thus when folks got together to make a movie about Queen Elizabeth II, I wasn't necessarily interested or anything like that. This is one of those instances when a movie did catch my attention simply because of the awards season - something I hate happening, but it is inevitable every now and then. For the most part I like having seen the movies well before they're even nominated so I don't end up making decisions just because of the award-giving bodies.

At least seeing this movie didn't make me regret making a decision based on awards.

The Queen is the story of how the British Royal Family, primarily Queen Elizabeth II, dealt with the events surrounding the death of the former Princess Diana. It's a semi-biographical account based on many interviews with "inside sources" with the gaps in-between filled-in with speculation and a little movie magic.

It's interesting to note that the people behind the movie decided to present the Queen in a rather favorable light given the general feelings of the population at the time. We've predominantly thought of the Royal Family as being cold and unfeeling and this movie because a vehicle for a particular message - that living the life of a monarch in these modern times is a lot more difficult than it seems and she was doing her best to serve all her obligations to tradition, the country and of course her family.

I found the story decent, but nothing amazingly overpowering, really. How much can you do with an event pretty much analyzed from all sides by history and the rest filled with the best speculation possible, but speculation nonetheless.

The real strength of this film was definitely in the performance of Helen Mirren in the title role. I don't say this because she did an amazing impersonation of the Queen, but more because she brought the fictional character to life as it was written. It would be folly to just gauge her performance against the Queen as a person. Instead we need to evaluate her based on the role she played, how convincing that was and how much she moved the audience. That's what made this movie so powerful and that's what bagged her all those acting awards.

The others were really just supporting players and no other performance was all that notable. I was somewhat disappointed in how they depicted then-Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) since he came off as rather weak and not as strong an orator the real Tony Blair is. The writing is partly to blame and the rest of it falls on the shoulders of the actor cast to portray him, but at this point I might just be nitpicking.

The Queen is definitely a masterpiece for Helen Mirren and overall an interesting glimpse of the complicated goings-on of the British Royal Family. I'm glad they didn't attempt to make a complicated documentary of the entire thing but instead just tried to showcase a key moment in their history and used the tension and stress in that situation better present how the characters interacted under such pressures.

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