Wednesday, September 13, 2006

THE QUEEN - another one for the export market

Stephen Frears' latest movie is yet another one for the export market. It is an over-long re-telling of the week following the death of Princess Diana, contrasting the public's hysterical mourning with the Queen's more dignified and yet brutally-condemned response. Her Majesty comes out of it very well - as a sovereign who is utterly devoted to her people and yet absolutely unable to understand what Her People - people she prides herself on understanding - are up to. The acclaimed British actress, Helen Mirren, gives a superb performance, never descending into pastiche, and managing to convey conflicting emotions behind the ever-dignified famous face. Michael Sheen is also tremendously good reprising his role as Tony Bliar. Blair comes across as an inept twat in the first half hour but gains in stature as the movie progresses - much to my surprise. The supporting cast are less successful, perhaps because their parts are written like watered-down Spitting Image puppets. Prince Philip is a string of rather funny, politically incorrect one-liners and Prince Charles a wet tree-hugging toady.

The primary problem with THE QUEEN is that the movie is far too long and tries to inject drama where precious little existed. Yes, the royal family misjudged the mood of the nation, but who could have predicted the breast-beating of the masses? Within a few days, the royals realised they had boo-booed - no doubt partly thanks to Blair - and came to London. The nation forgave them. Dear lord, this is such a conservative (with a small "c") nation that the monarchy was never really under threat. (The central premise of this melodrama.) Cherie Blair admits as such when she points out to her husband that all Labour Prime Ministers have gone weak at the knees for the Queen. And given the general acceptance of the new Duchess of Cornwall the Diana-related trauma seems awfully old-hat.

A secondary problem is one that I suspect will only affect UK viewers. That is that the script contains an awful lot of basic education on who everyone is and what everything means. You know, one character explains to another the symbolism of the flag being at half mast. It's like British Heritage 101 for interested foreigners.

Overall, despite Helen Mirren's superb performance and a pant-wettingly funny joke at Waiting for Gordo's expense, THE QUEEN feels like a glossy tele-novella that would have been better suited to US subscribers to the Hallmark Channel. I do wish Stephen Frears would get back to more ambitious stuff like

THE QUEEN premiered at Venice 2006 where Helen Mirren won a prize for her perfomance. It is currently on release in Italy and the UK. It opens in the NYC on September 30th and in other parts of the US on October 6th. Finally, it rolls into France on October 18th and the Netherlands on November 30th.


  1. hey, i want to see this but will probably just rent it.

    just saw BLACK DAHLAHLA.

    My world has been turned upside down. I have lost my compass and feel like i've jumped out of a plane without my parachute.

    DePalma is dead. Some alien force took over his body and us using the "DePalma" visual style and is trying to fool the world. i am not fooled. Even though the deplama regulars where there, like the guy who rented the house to CRAIG SHEFFER in BODY DOUBLE, or the evil surgeon brother from SISTERS, I am not fooled.

    Brian could not have made this movie. he knows better.
    the last 30 minutes, even the last scene, are so terrible and so unintenionally funny it's hard to belive one's eyes. no studio could have released this thing like this on the public.

    a deplama movie without suspence, with terrible acting, zero blood and lame tv quality sex, i don't get it....when it was over it felt like a tv movie. Watching this made me feel how empty i felt after the GUS VAN SANT PSYCHO.
    In the end i felt bad for the dead woman the film's based on, BETTY...She really did not get a fair deal, and the last image of her in this film is used as a lame scare effect and is an insult to her horrific death.

    i have to go find my old autograph of DEPLAMA i got at a press screening of Casualties of War and throw it out.

    i don't know what's going on with the world, all the old heros are falling. Will SCORSESE be able to make
    magic in his forthcoming film, he's the last of the 70's
    icons who still has a fighting chance...WOODY surged back to life with MATCHPOINT but then killed himself with SCOOP.

    I'm afraid to leave the house, afraid to go to a movie...
    Even though i am looking forward to b. FREIDKIN's BUG.

    anyway DePALMA is dead.


  2. I wouldn't hold your breath for the Scorsese remake either....

    Sorry man.

    Perhaps you can replace these old hacks for some new icons. Check out a nice new film called Pan's Labrynth for instance....