Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Best Picture Nominees Part III: The Queen

[rate 4]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/P8nD2KB0a_E" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

All that I heard about The Queen before seeing it was that Helen Mirren was superb playing Queen Elizabeth II. I definitely agree. I also believe that Michael Sheen was a perfect Tony Blair. In fact, all of the performances were first rate.

What surprised me, at least at first, was that a movie about a woman who reigned over England for more than 50 years, oversaw Prime Ministers such as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and whose country went to war several times since 1952, was about how she handled Princess Diana's death. Why was a week of silence that angered her country more interesting than the other fifty-some years? Then I thought about it. Since biopics about her have already been made, including one this year also starring Helen Mirren, that wasn't the point of The Queen. The film wasn't really so much about Queen Elizabeth II as it was about how the world, particularly England, has changed in the 50+ years of her reign. And how little she has changed.

In the film, the royal family follows century-old protocols in dealing with Princess Diana's death. They consider it a private matter, so the Queen makes no formal statement to her subjects, and they do not travel to London to appear at Buckingham palace; thus, do not fly a flag at half-mast.

The public, however, seeing Diana's death as a tragedy for the whole world, disapproves of the Queen's behavior, believing it has more to do with her disapproval of Diana than protocol. This makes for a week of angst and embarrassment for the Queen, and the rest of the royal family, as they watch the public and the press rebuke them.

On the other hand, Tony Blaire comes off smelling like a rose. He runs interference for the royal family, and offers them advice on handling the public. The press praises him for this.

Ultimately, the Queen must decide whether to follow tradition or cater to the public.

The Queen was thoroughly enjoyable, filled with great performances and a realistic, if not a bit too light-hearted, portrayal of they royal family and Princess Diana's death. However, the movie lost its focus on the Queen at times, as it ran actual news clips of Diana. Though, I suppose that couldn't be helped.