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The Queen

Miramax Films. Running time: 103 minutes.
Rating: M (Infrequent moderate coarse language)

Before we had celebrities to observe, I suppose our attentions were drawn to members of the royal family. Unlike most celebrities, however, the British Royal Family has real power and enduring appeal to their admirers throughout the Commonwealth. "The Queen", a new film by Stephen Frears, features this comparison between the world of royalty and the world of celebrity.

"The Queen" focuses on the tragic death of Diana, the Princess of Wales, and the grief which followed her car accident in Paris on 31 August 1997 (do you remember where you were that day? I bet you do). The role of popular culture in her demise highlights the danger of celebrity-worship. This film, like the Australian movie "Diana and Me" (1997), tries to make sense of the public’s reaction to losing somone famous who displayed compassion, charm and cheeky defiance of the establishment.

"The Queen" is not just about the Queen of our Hearts, however; it is also about the Queen on our Stamps (namely Queen Elizabeth II), and how she responded to society’s outpouring of emotion. QE2 is played to perfection by Helen Mirren, who perhaps is the only actress capable of portraying the divergent personalities of Elizabeth I and II. There are wonderful scenes of the Monarch meeting the new Prime Minister, Tony Blair (played without caricature by Michael Sheen), and his feisty partner, Cherie (played by an animated Helen McCrory). Also impressive are the performances by James Cromwell (as a ghastly Prince Philip) and Sylvia Syms (as a legendary Queen Mother).

At times, "The Queen" feels like a film made for Sunday night television – but overall it is worth seeing in the cinema, if possible, to appreciate the magnitude of Dame Helen Mirren’s performance, as well as that of the film’s subject matter.


Reviewed by Mark Young