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The Queen [2006] - 8.98

Helen Mirren reigns supreme in The Queen, a witty and ingenious look at a moment that rocked the house of Windsor: the week that followed the sudden death of Princess Diana in 1997. Diana's death came at just the same time that Prime Minister Tony Blair (played by the bright Michael Sheen) was settling into his new government--and trying to figure out the delicate relationship between 10 Downing Street and Queen Elizabeth II (Mirren). A large portion of the British population was trying to figure out the Windsors that week, as Elizabeth remained stiff-upper-lip and largely mum about the death of the beloved princess. In Peter Morgan's skillful script, we watch as Blair grows increasingly impatient with the Royals, who are sequestered in their Scottish estate while the public demands some show of grief. Prince Philip (James Cromwell, in good form) clumsily decides to take Diana's sons hunting, while a sympathetically-treated Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) displays some frustration with his mother's eerie calm.

None of this conveys how funny the film is, or how deftly it flows from one scene to the next. Director Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things) deserves great credit for that, and for the performances, and for the movie's marvelous sense of well-roundedness; you could see this movie and groan at the cluelessness of the Royals and their outmoded existence, or you might just sympathise with showing reserve in a world that values gross public displays of emotion. But either way, you'll marvel at Mirren, who makes the Queen far more alert and human than one might ever have imagined. --Robert Horton

Customer reviews (av rating: 3.5):

Rating: 1:
Not a good movie : I was really looking forward to see "The Queen".
I think it was not that good. I would not recommend it.

Rating: 4:
Entertaining, interesting and the Queen comes over better than I expected : The film more or less follows the period immediately following the death of Diana. It highlights the position taken by the Queen (extremely discrete), the Royal Family (generally antagonistic to Diana), Tony Blair (just finding his feet after being elected), and the public (wanting an overt - US-like - demonstration of mourning). I particularly liked the strained and highly formalised initial meeting between the Queen (Helen Mirren) and the recently elected Tony Blair (Michael Sheen). Then we see, upon the death of Diana, how the Queen and the Royal Family initially ignore and then misread public grieving. All the characters, excluding the Queen and Tony Blair, basically comfort the stereotypes we expect to see - a pleasant but ineffectual Prince Charles, an insensitive Prince Philip who wants to shoot anything that moves, a down-to-earth Queen Mother, and an army of people all trying to keep the boat afloat (corgis and all). We see a Queen that slowly learns that the British people have changed and now want to see visible manifestations of pain, mourning and grief for the "people's princess". And we see a Tony Blair that begins to see just what the Queen really stands for and the difficulties and dilemmas she faces. In the end we observe a new relationship of respect and confidence formed between them as they together navigate through a complex period of crisis and social change.
The film mixes real footage from the period with scenes that have become common knowledge (or common myth), and inserts a few additions and extrapolations that we will never be able to confirm. You really have the impression of being there when things happen, but the film never dives into excessive sentimentalism and always appears to respect a type of plausible reality. This in not a film I expected to like, but in the end it is a very well made film that is very entertaining. The ability of Helen Mirren to capture the looks and character of the queen is really outstanding, and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair is admirable. This film has certainly changed for the better the way I see both the Queen and Tony Blair.

Rating: 4:
Very enjoyable : The joy of this great piece of cinema is watching the violent collision of two parallel worlds coexisting in the present-day UK, the world of upper-class Victorian privilege and devotion to duty inhabited by the UK Royal Family, complete with its huntin', shootin', fishin', and the everyday world of all the rest of us. This is brilliantly captured in this film, especially with the flashes between the mannered, genteel Royal household and the chaotic, refreshingly normal Blair household.

The scenes in which collision first occurs are priceless; the slightly gauche young Tony Blair, fresh from a landslide General Election victory, confronts his Sovereign whose first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, the anti-Royalist Cherie Blair sways in an incredibly precarious curtsey and then the Blairs back out of The Presence in the most awkward manner, because nobody turns his or her back on HM ("And it's "Ma'am", as in "ham", not "Marm" as in "farm", as a uniformed flunkey reminds them).

The greater collision was triggered by the death of Diana, and the sudden realisation by the Royals that something more than regal aloofness and stiff upper lips were necessary. Having apparently grown up with an assumption of the right to rule as their due and that the public would soon see things their way, the Windsors were suddenly confronted by the fact that the public saw Diana differently and what it thought of her - and them - mattered very much. In the end, you are left with the impression that Elizabeth Windsor, with the urging of Tony Blair, had learned something - but could perhaps usefully learn a bit more.

This is naturally a work of fiction - the Queen basically adheres very well to the formula of Walter Bagehot, the great 19th century editor of "The Economist", that not too much light should be allowed in for fear of destroying the magic, and so never gives interviews and rarely allows personal glimpses. We therefore have no idea as to what was said and thought. However, I found it all works extremely well. All the actors are excellent, especially Helen Mirren, thoroughly meriting her Oscar and proving that there really is nothing like a Dame. She manages marvellously the complex part of Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, Sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., etc, etc., with its mixture of absolute devotion to duty, traditional values, conservatism, basic shyness and elitism. James Cromwell does a good job of Prince Philip, whose idea of helping Diana's sons cope with her death is to take them out to shoot things, Sylvia Sims makes a delightful Queen Mother and Charles is given a sympathetic portrayal, although it's a pity that they didn't get someone who looks more like him (but then, who would want to?).

All in all, a very good film which leaves one (this one anyway) wondering why the ordinary British people accept with relatively little complaint this bunch of toffs with virtually nothing in common with them (same number of heads, arms, ears, etc., but that's all) as their rulers. But then, the US public has recently twice voted into its Presidency the US equivalent of royalty, who has nothing in common with them and whose sole interest is lining the pockets of other rich guys. At least the Brits have (genuine) class. Perhaps they really have the right idea.

Rating: 1:
not a 'film' just pointless : This is just a fairly average tv type drama and totally misconceived.
I am a fan of Helen Mirren and Stephen Frears' work but feel their talents here are largely wasted.

It was certainly a brave project and Mirren does give a stunning performance here making the Queen appear extremely human.
Unfortunately it failed to engage my interest,had no cinematic feel at all and most of the time I was distracted by the actors 'impressions' of the royal family. At times I was reminded of spitting image!

The subject matter is irrelevant. A poor film is a poor film and this was a total misfire. Helen wins it 1 star alone!

Rating: 5:
We are not emotional : I really enjoyed this film and found it better than I expected. Everyone knows Mirren was superb, but Sheen had Blair's voice to perfection and I thought all the actors did well, particularly the unsung heroes, four corgis of Her Majesty. Other reviews set the scene of unresponsive, out of touch queen versus the people's new prime minister. But I did not find this to be an anti-monarchist film at all. Blair is an instant convert to royalism it seems and the film faithfully portrays why the Queen behaved as she did. One does what one perceives to be one's duty and does not wear one's heart on one's sleeve. I confess all my sympathies were with the Queen in her distance from the gushing emotion and pseudo-grief of Joe Public. I think the story about the stag was to show the Queen had more feeling for dumb animals than a dead princess, but then the stag had not given her any distress in the past. I think the message portrayed was that it was not merely that the Queen did not show the emotion of grief over Diana but that she was not really feeling her loss, apart from her concern for the two boys. Of course one knows that a lot of what was portrayed here is mere speculation but the one historic thing I question is the congregation in Westminster Abbey applauding Althrop's speech. Did they? If so I must at the time have been so disgusted by his speech that I missed the applause. Thankfully the parts of his speech in which he criticized the royal family were left out. Message of the film.? The monarchy must modernise. Personally I am happier with the monarchy than with pseudo-emotion from the great British public.

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