Helen Mirren plays HM Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears “The Queen” and she does it particularly well, so well in fact that she won an Oscar for it for best actress in a leading role and deservedly so.
I was skeptical about the biographical part of the movie at first but you come to realize quite quickly that this movie is not about being absolutely accurate but rather telling a story of a queen and a grandmother, whether it is heartfelt or not. Whether Queen Mum has her daily Gin or goes and has encounters with a majestic stag is not the core of the matter here.
Given the movie evolves around Princess Diana’s funeral, the royal family isn’t depicted in the best light while Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) comes across as a spotless politician who “saves” the Queen eventually and advises her to do “the right thing” as Prince Charles told her as he came to thank her for heeding the Prime Minister’s advice to fly down to London and make a public appearance.
The movie winds up to this moment where Queen ma’am walks down the rows of flowers and reads the condolence cards, walks up to a little girl with flowers in her hands and offers the girl to put them down for her and the girl just says “No. – These are for you”.
Finally, despite all the “hate” that people manifested over the way the Queen and Royal Family initially responded to this tragedy, the people still love their Queen and respect her and even though sharing her grief was against her belief and how she was brought up (as the film would have us believe) by doing so she assured the British nation that she is their “people’s queen”. For Blair it is very clear that the people need their Queen as he told his wife that “it is unimaginable this country being a republic… certainly in her life time… it’s just daft.”
Did the Queen watch this movie you might ask and I would like to think she did. Helen Mirren may soon have some face time with the real queen over a cup of tea. Mirren who was named a Dame of the British Empire in 2003, a girl from Essex, delivers an astounding performance here and has indeed come a long way from playing “Morgana” in Excalibur (1981) to the voice of “Deep Thought” in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) to having tea with Queen Mum. Now, let’s hope they don’t confuse who’s who after a cup of tea!
Despite all the positive buzz there is still the fact that this movie is not quite a biography as we usually get them and it deters from seeing this as mere fiction which it clearly isn’t either. What to make of it then? A mere stab at exploiting Princess Diana’s tragic death from another angle? Mere Hollywood money making? Another Royal Family bashing? I don’t ask these questions and suggest you don’t either because whatever it is, it certainly is good entertainment that simply tells an honest and heartfelt story and exceedingly well, too.