The Queen

I went to see The Queen last night, which is about the Queen and Tony Blair in the week after Diana’s death. I enjoyed it more than I was expecting.

I couldn’t help thinking that a film about one of the biggest and most relentlessly commented on news stories of the past ten years was unlikely to offer much of a surprise. And it didn’t, really. The details have obviously just been made up, and who knows how close they are to what happened, but the presentation isn’t a particularly radical one. But it was well written, looked great (not least because so much of the action took place either in the Scottish Highlands or royal palaces) and had some amusing moments, mainly to do with the bubble of anachronistic weirdness that surrounds the Queen.

And most of all, I thought Helen Mirren as her Maj and Michael Sheen as Blair both did a good job of presenting them as human and likeable while treading the fine line between acting and doing an impression. There are lots of films that require actors to play famous people, of course, but it must be unusual to play someone quite so familiar who is still alive and still in the news all the time. Sheen was the more like of the two, and captured the newly elected Blair (rather different to the current model), but as a result occasionally strayed close to caricature. I never quite felt with Mirren that I was watching the Queen; there’s not much of a physical resemblance and she avoided doing that strangulatingly posh voice the Queen has. But it worked as a performance anyway. Of course most of the supporting parts are pretty famous too — Philip, Charles, the Queen Mother, Cherie, Alastair Campbell — and so the likeness or, more often, unlikeness of their performances was often a touch distracting. Diana only appeared in archive film and the young princes barely appeared and didn’t have speaking parts. That’s probably a good decision: keep the focus on the Queen and Blair.

At one point in the film, the Queen is watching that awful, coy, manipulative Diana interview with Martin Bashir. Every time I see it it makes my skin crawl, despite the fact that I can’t stand Prince Charles and I think Diana was completely shafted by the system. Who knows what the situation would be like today if she hadn’t died; what she’d be up to, and how well the Royal family would be coping. Even without Diana as a constant presence offstage, I think Charles will find his mother a hard act to follow. There’s so little support for abolishing the monarchy that it feels inevitable that they’ll be around for ever. But perhaps all it would take would be one disastrous incumbent to change the mood; Charles just might have the potential to be that person.

2 Comments

  1. 26 February 2007 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    In real life, the queen and the rest of the royal family were NOT oblivious to Diana’s presence in France. The Duke of Edinburgh proclaiming, “What was she doing in France?” was FUNNY. They knew exactly where she was at all times, and were reeling in her frolicing about with a Muslim to which religion she was gonna convert and whom she was gonna marry. Also, the phone lines from Balmoral Castle were burned up not with the conversations depicted in the movie, but in valiant efforts to ensure that Diana’s jewels will safely find their way back to the royal family.

    Also, no member of the royal family will ever, or has ever, uttered the words, “I hope the stag did not suffer during the hunt.”

    From this movie, a person cannot tell that Diana and Charles had been divorced for a year prior to the death, and separated for about five.

    This movie indicated nothing about the fact that when Diana died, the young princes had not seen her in two months, and that she had been spending her time frolicking about Europe.

    In real life no member of the royal family shed a tear when she died, probably not even the young princes.

    The movie was a whitewash, and may well have been funded at least in part by the royal family or noble families closely connected with the royal family. We can also safely assume that Althorp and family of Earl Spencer did not much influence this movie!

    Also, I agree that one should be surprised, after all the hype about how good the actress who played Elizabeth was, how lame the other characters were! The Prince of Wales sounded like Ronald Reagan with a bad British accent. The Queen Mother looked like she would keel over at any moment. In real life the Queen Mother lived to 101 (four and a half more years) but looked like she had 10 more years left right up to the end.

    It is just as well that Princes Andrew, Edward, Princess Anne and Princess Margaret were all totally omitted from the movie. And the two young princes were seen only from a distance and from their backs. (No princesses Beatrice and Eugenie either.) Probably just as well.

  2. Harry
    26 February 2007 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Amy, thanks for your input. For me, though, you kind of lost all credibility this:

    “The movie was a whitewash, and may well have been funded at least in part by the royal family or noble families closely connected with the royal family.”

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