Friday, February 23, 2007

The Oscar 5: 'The Queen'

The premise of ‘The Queen’ struck me in the same vein as last years films examining 9/11 – why, what could they achieve? Whether it be a biographical effort or a historic recreation, the filmmakers will still strive to make a commercially successful, dramatic piece and this requires taking liberties with how events unfolded. This could turn badly sour if done in poor taste or not portrayed in a way the people remember. The events of 9/11 and the outpouring of grief following the death of Princess Diana are vivid moments in recent history, any movie must be careful in judging how public feeling has evolved since then.
Straight up the events we know so well are here recreated vividly, intercut with archive footage. However when we enter into the backrooms of Balmoral or No. 10, the film looses its impact as we can never rest easy that these conversations would have ever been held or these emotions were expressed. We can of course read the press surrounding the film and watch the documentary on the DVD to see how much research went into the private actions of the Royal family but if we are to take the viewing experience alone on its merits, which is the truest way of reviewing it, the scenes do not convince in their authenticity. The scenes feel contrived so that they can never permeate enough in their attempt to show the stulted relationships of the Windsor’s. Almost as the pitch perfect recreation of public moments undermines the quieter moments, Helen Mirren’s outstanding performance as Elizabeth II only serves to make the underdeveloped supporting characters stick out like a sore thumb. Other than flashes of Diana, the Tony Blair character gets the most screen time. He seems to be in a remake of the Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes where Dr. Watson is the true sleuth and pays a cheeky chappy dunce to play the part of a suave detective. I am well aware he is infamously surrounded by masters of spin but the man here resembles nothing of presence that Blair conveyed when first elected. As for The Queen Mother and Prince Philip and Prince Charles they are one dimensional and in the case of the latter two poorly cast – why go to the trouble of showing the human side of the Queen and negate it by surrounding her with tabloid cardboard cutouts. The less said about Cherie Blair the better.

Without doubt the film belongs to Helen Mirren, playing a woman who’s life is not her own. She will win the Oscar this year not for an impersonation or an evocation, she literally is the Queen. After she has become the Queen she brings an entire other layer of acting to play, playing doubt and frustration and quiet suffering. Similar to ‘Babel’ this is a film about people in a time of crisis and their failure to communicate, stumped by loss. In Helen Mirren’s subtle performance though we have all the emotional impact displayed that ‘Babel’ tried to string together to lesser effect. So I am pleasantly surprised by ‘The Queen’, it does add dimensions to familiar events, giving context to a world of superficial graces and uninvited expectations that we don’t understand, so that while it doesn’t always ring through resoundly, as we sit in our sitting rooms watching this family in their sitting room there is a sense of solace

1 comment:

EWI said...

but if we are to take the viewing experience alone on its merits, which is the truest way of reviewing it, the scenes do not convince in their authenticity.

Yes. A PR offensive by the House of Windsor, much?