Friday, February 02, 2007

Thus Saith The Queen

We went to see The Queen tonight – not herself in person, quite, but a remarkably good imitation of her by Helen Mirren. In fact, without Mirren, the film would have stood little chance of success, I suspect. The script is moderately good, the camerawork okay, but the colour is rather washed out at times and there is little depth to the focus. The other actors, for the most part, look only a little like their counterparts. Sylvia Sims as the Queen Mother has none of the warmth that woman exuded in public, and James Cromwell brings all the nastiness he usually commands in villainous roles to that of the Duke of Edinburgh, turning that mildly unpleasant man into an impatient, single-minded character who has no warmth at all. That may be the some people see him, but it seems a little one-sided.
Michael Sheen makes a good fist of Tony Blair, producing a warm smile with frequency (a smile not often responded to by The Queen, or responded to with frostiness), but seems a little thin for the part or lacking in physical stature. I don’t know how big Blair is, but he comes across as seeming to have more presence and weight than Sheen can give him.
Diana, of course, plays herself, as only she could, through a barrage of news clips and still shots, and dozens of other clips and shots are integrated seamlessly into the movie. Only at the end, when the Royal Family attend the funeral at the Abbey, does there seem a curious distance between the real life arrivals of celebrities, and the actors posed in chairs with seemingly very few extras in the background.
That wonderful actress, Helen McCrory, who brings both a kind of seediness and some underlying grittiness to her roles (she always seems to play people who are rather too selfish for words), here plays Cherie Blair as a warm character, but one with quite a deal of bitchiness about her – especially in regard to the Monarchy. She’s been woefully underused in movies – it always seems as if the editors cut her parts down in preference to others – but she was unforgettable in a tv mini series called, The Fragile Heart, in which she played the daughter of a doctor who was himself all selfishness, and had to unlearn a lifetime of thinking of himself first. She followed in her father’s footsteps, in contrast to her brother, who, also a doctor, had gone along a more generous line. Nigel Hawthorne was the father, in one of his many great roles.
Overall The Queen is entertaining, moving, cringe-making in its presentation of the Royal Family, and a star vehicle for Mirren, who can pretty well never put a foot wrong in whatever she does. She has the Queen down pat, her speech inflections, her tone, her body language…you name it. The film is undeniably worth seeing for this performance alone.
At the same screening the theatre presented a trailer of Judi Dench’s latest movie, Notes on a Scandal. It looks like a marvellous film – anything Dench is in will have at least one great performance in it – but the trailer virtually showed the entire story, leaving out only the ending. You’d go to it now knowing almost everything that was going to happen. Why do they do that?
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