THE QUEEN (2006) 

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Helen Mirren
James Cromwell
Alex Jennings
Roger Allam
Sylvia Syms
Michael Sheen
Helen McCrory
Time McMullan
Mark Bazeley
Douglas Reith

Stephen Frears



Time: 97 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Biography

Won Academy Award for Best Actress (Mirren). Nominations for Best Costume Design, Direction, Original Screenplay, Score and Best Picture.

SYNOPSIS: The sudden death of Princess Diana sends shockwaves around the world, creating a dilemma for the Queen of England and the royal family as they are forced to make their private grief public.

BOTTOM LINE: It's never easy for an actor to play someone world-reknowned, especially a personality who's still alive and kicking, so one has to give Mirren much credit for attempting to portray Queen Elizabeth. That she nails the performance, and actually makes you feel sorry for the royal family, is even more impressive. Almost everyone remembers where they were when they heard about Princess Diana's fatal car crash. She was a figure we all knew and loved from the moment it seemed her fairytale life as a princess began. Of course, over the years, despite everything that happened in her marriage, she still managed to keep her charm and grace in tact. Her troubles making her even more human and approachable. Dealing with infidelity and divorce are painful enough, I can't imagine having to go through that pain in the public eye.

It seemed like the royal family was against her, but this portrayal of the days between her death and her funeral, shed some interesting aspects on their turbulent relationships. I mean, how would you feel if you had to pay for the funeral of your ex-daughter-in-law? It's clear they didn't always get along and the film doesn't pull any punches in that arena, but you can hardly blame them for wanting to keep their grief private. Diane may have been a very public figure, but she was no longer royalty, so according to tradition, which is the core of the Queen's personality, she was legally required to merely attend, as the boys' grandmother, whatever service the Spencer family decided on. What this film revealed, most tellingly, is the chasm that had grown between the monachy and the public. After all the Queen had been through up to this point in her reign, this situation clearly throws her for a loop, leaving her out of her element, dealing with a people she no longer understands and who are no longer enthralled by her presence.

"Something's happened. There's been a change, some shift in values. When you no longer understand your people, mummy, maybe it is time to hand it over to the next generation."

Diana changed the face of the British royalty, for good or ill, and there is no turning back. The Queen was now being forced to actually connect with her subjects, as Diana did so well, instead of lord over them. Her consternation at this change is at the heart of this piece. Her frustration is palpable as she tries to hold onto tradition and dignity in the midst of chaos and heartbreak. She may not have loved Diana or even fully understood her place in the world, but she clearly was saddened by this turn of events and deals with it the only way she knows how. Mirren brilliantly brings this complex, intelligent woman to life, making you feel sorry for someone who was portrayed as mean and spiteful, but in the end was just trying to protect her family. She had to deal with Diana in ways the public never saw, which as we all know with in-laws, can't have always been easy. Her mixed emotions about the tragedy are honestly displayed, making her more human and less monarch. In the end, this is a very interesting piece about a real-world event and the personal and political ramifications it brought about. Even though the Queen of England is more a figurehead than a real ruler in this day and age, most of us commoners are still fascinated by the inner workings of this rarified world. While this film may not have garnered the real Queen much affection, I have a feeling it helped her regain some respect.

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