Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Queen

"The Queen" takes us inside the royal family just after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. As an American, it is fascinating to watch the the machinations of the British government during this time of public shock and grief. The exchanges between the newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and her royal highness are absolutely priceless. There is quite a bit of humorous dialogue which I perceived to be unintentional and only funny as an outsider looking in.

During the week between the accident and Diana's funeral, the royal family opts to remain private and retreat to their country estate. The British public, who obviously worshipped Diana as a public figure, resent the actions taken by the royal family and public opinion begins to plummet for the monarchy. Tony Blair recognizes the importance of a public show of grieving to unite the country and does his best to gently persuade The Queen to change her mind.

As The Queen, Helen Mirren is simply brilliant. One can only imagine what it's like inside the royal family and Ms. Mirren acts like she's lived the part her entire life. Every line and every look come so naturally to her, you forget she is acting. She will be very hard to beat come Oscar time. As Tony Blair, Michael Sheen is up to the challenge of verbally sparring with Ms. Mirren. The very reliable James Cromwell plays Prince Phillip and Alex Jennings portrays a spot-on Prince Charles.

The story is cut with actual footage from the period which only serves to create an air of authenticity to the entire film. One would think the screenwriter, Peter Morgan, was a fly on the wall during that tragic week. It is easy to dismiss The Queen as the villain and Tony Blair the hero of the story but as the film unfolds, things are not so clearly defined and a key line by Ms. Mirren towards the end of the film puts everything in perspective. Whether or not it's all accurate, "The Queen" is fascinating look into a world most of us never see.

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