"The Queen" is an interesting look at the election of Tony Blair as British Prime Minister followed by the tragedy of the accidental death of Princess Diana, and how the two events effected the Royal Family and the whole country of Britian.
Blair is looking to 'modernize' British politics, which has already placed him at odds with the Queen. He shows her the proper respect even though it seems the thing to do rather than a heartfelt, genuine gesture. He's not much on protocol either and has suggested that everyone in the cabinet be on a first name basis. He gives every appearance of being a real person, whose wife does not know or care how to act in the presence of Royalty and drops an 'f-bomb' not twenty feel from Her Majesty.
Blair was elected in may 1997. In August of that year, Diana died. She was already divorced from Charles, so no longer a Royal. Its never stated by anyone, but the divorce was obviously quite an embarrassment and Diana's public life after wards even more so. No regret or emotion over her death is felt by the Queen or Prince Philip, but Prince Charles is devastated, and to a lesser degree of course, so is Tony Blair. Subsequently, the Royals offer no response of any kind, which is viewed more harshly as the days go by. Since 'there is no precedent' and standing firmly behind the fact that she was no longer HRH, the Royals are steadfast in their belief and stand their ground. Prince Philip and the Queen Mum seem to have the only views that the Queen can hear; she has only proverbial 'yes-men' surrounding her, and all that tradition of honor and dignity, and the belief that she knows the Brits better than anyone and what they expect from her and, more importantly, what they don't expect. Tony Blair finds himself in the difficult position of wanting to enlighten the Queen while having to respect her title. She's oblivious to the fact that Diana was deeply loved, apart from her marriage, and he knows she's making a mistake. Prince Charles is seen as something of a simp and never confronts his Mother about his wish for a public funeral - that's left largely to Tony Blair to do. She's none too pleased with him but one day realizes he's right. She's finally able to bend without breaking. The Queen makes a public statement, expressing a lot of emotion while actually showing none at all.
Helen Mirren is an actress I've enjoyed in several movies such as "Some Mother's Son", "Greenfingers" and "Calendar Girls" and of course she's very good in this movie. It appears as though its an easy part to play and you're not exactly stretching every acting muscle you've got so I can't quite jump on the she-has-to-win-the-Oscar bandwagon, although I suspect she will. Lately it seems all you have to do is portray a real person. In the fifties, playing a prostitute got you one. Times change. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the scene in which she finally breaks down long enough to cry. Mirren is seen from behind, and I always think an actor can cheat by not having to be shown shedding any real tears. Either that or the director finally gave up hoping for the ideal shot and caved in by request. After I thought about it I realized that by not seeing her cry was the perfect way to show her crying, as its consistent with the 'stiff-upper lip', stone-face image seen by the public.
I also enjoyed Michael Sheen, who I just saw in "Blood Diamond" a couple of days ago. He also merits awards attention. James Cromwell and Sylvia Syms are very good, too, although like I mentioned before, underplaying seems less impressive, especially when everyone is doing it.
The thing I got to most out of was the that the events showed all angles, and the difference between feeling what you want to feel about anything and what you think you're supposed to be feeling. The fact that the Royals only viewed Diana in terms of how she effected them and their legacy seemed grossly unfair, both to her and to themselves. She was a remarkable woman and the world lost a real treasure when she died prematurely.
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