Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Inaugural Post-- The Queen

Welcome to my blog. I have to admit, this is kind of a new thing for me. I love my computer, and I love reading other people's blogs, but it never occurred to me to start one of my own until now. But being in grad school & living with my husband-to-be this year is exposing me to a lot of great things that I'd like to share. I'm passionate about a lot of things- music, food, wine, poetry, books, movies- and I'd like this blog to be somewhere that people can come to find new things to do, see, eat, read, drink, and try. Wish me luck, and tell me how I'm doing!

Today's subject: The Queen

Last Thursday, I managed to snag some free preview tickets to see the film The Queen, with Helen Mirren. In case you're worried about spoilers, as I know that the movie hasn't actually been released yet, don't be. The plot of the film is something that most people are already familiar with- Queen Elizabeth's response to Diana's death in the ten days following it. I was 15 when Diana died, and I have an incredibly clear memory of the night that she died. I sat in the car listening to the song "Pop Goes The World" at night on the way home from my aunt & uncle's house in Hamilton. Considering that so many people have such intensely emotional memories of when Diana died, the filmmakers (Stephen Frears directed) have a lot to live up to.

Before I went to see the film, I read the Toronto Star review online. I love the Star's reviewers, and I generally agree with their opinions. They're tough critics, and that's why I was surprised to see that they had given it four stars, out of a possible four. That gave The Queen even more to live up to, in my mind. Did it succeed? Sort of.

Most of the media and awards buzz right now is centered on Dame Helen Mirren, who plays Queen Liz herself. I think the notable thing about Mirren's portrayal is this- she doesn't mimic the Queen, she ACTS. There are places in the film where you are left saying to yourself "that doesn't look too much like Queen Elizabeth to me", but that's alright. Mirren makes her individual, and that's better than copycatting. She does a lovely job of conveying QEII's outdoorsiness, her sense of dignity and propriety, her reserve, and her love for her grandchildren. Of course, Mirren is helped by makeup, wigs, and a prosthetic bum. After all, our Liz is a bit more stout than the slender Mirren. However, I left the theatre thinking that maybe, just maybe, this is how the royal family actually acted and thought after Diana died. And that was convincing enough for me.

The filmmakers also did a good job of giving a portrait of the HRHs that is reasonably balanced between self love and hatred for Diana. Since Diana's post-accident canonization, it is hard to remember that she was at times incredibly difficult to deal with. However, Frears does a good job of showing both sides- remember the TV interview that Diana gave where she stated, "Well, there are three people in this marriage. So it's a bit crowded, really"? I was left with sympathy for both parties, which I think was the best road to take.

The supporting characters, however, are the ones who really let the movie down. James Cromwell as Prince Phillip and Roger Allam as the Queen's personal secretary Robin Janvrin are wonderful. (Check Allam out in V for Vendetta. Amazing movie, and he is great in it). Neither appears to be an actor playing a part, but rather are just royals (and royal hangers-on) being themselves. Tony & Cherie Blair (Michael Sheen & Helen McCrory) sink in calibre from there. Tony is too simpering and too sympathetic, and Cherie is a caricature of herself. The award for bad acting, however, has to go to Prince Charles, Alex Jennings. He seems to be saying to himself throughout the movie, "If I keep my face screwed up in this strange way and speak as though I have a pickle up my bum, maybe I'll actually look like Charles." Needless to say, he wasn't particularly successful, but he was in the movie so little, he didn't overly hurt it.

I have to admit, as someone who likes to think well of people, I would like to believe that Tony Blair really is the person that Frears made him out to be in the film. Considering his past and present actions as Prime Minister, I can't honestly believe that he is, but I'd like to. I'd also like to see if the Queen has an official statement about the contents of the movie or it's representation of her. But knowing our Queen Elizabeth, she won't.

(Sidebar: I knew that I had seen the name Michael Sheen somewhere. He has a daughter with Kate Beckinsale. Oh, the wonders of IMDB. Be warned, you are now just getting the first taste of my major vice, aside from chocolate- celebrity gossip. And if you do get out to see the film, check out the end of this film clip after you do, and compare Mirren's final speech with the one actually televised by the Queen. )


Anonymous said...

Hey Mel! Thanks for the email letting me know about your blog. I'm always in for discussion of movies, literature, etc and love your review of The Queen. It sounds like something worth seeing. I'll definitely have to keep on eye on your writings to find out about some awesome new things! Hope you're doing well, Babe!

Laura (of the Westie Crew)