Directed by: Stephen Frears
Premise: This film dramatizes the relationship between English Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) and Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) after the death of Princess Diana.
What Works: The Queen deals with the conflict between tradition and modernization by juxtaposing Blair and Elizabeth just after Blair’s election then through the tragedy and mourning of Diana’s death. The film features sharp dialogue, smart pacing, and performances that are very convincing. Mirren’s performance has been getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so, but the other great performance in the film is Sheen as Tony Blair. Despite the film’s namesake, much of the film rotates on Blair’s decisions and it gives him a lot of credit for saving the monarchy’s namesake during this period. Another great role in the film is Alex Jennings as Prince Charles, who displays dual roles as a political figure, a father, an ex-husband, and a mother’s boy. He plays the role carefully, not caving into Saturday Night Live Prince Charles stereotypes. While dealing with the death of Princess Diana, The Queen is able to provide a sense of what Diana meant to the public, and do so far more effectively than Bobby did with Robert F. Kennedy, by using selected images and file footage that plays for maximum effect.
What Doesn’t: The reasons for Elizabeth’s coldness toward Diana are never quite clear, beyond being an ex-mother-in-law, especially for audience members who are not as familiar with the politics of Diana’s marriage and the public drama of her divorce from Charles.
Bottom Line: The Queen is a brilliant film about the merging of politics and pop culture, and how one affects the other. The acting is great on all accounts, and the film is able to take what would otherwise be a soap opera for gossip magazines and make it into something sophisticated and intelligent.
Episode: #122 (December 17, 2006)