Not that this really matters, but I recently reviewed The Last King of Scotland which I said was average. However, the actor of the main character got an Oscar. Now I have just finished watching The Queen, whose main character won an Oscar. It is only slightly better.
We all know the principlesElizabeth Regina, her mother Elizabeth, Queens Consort Prince Philip, Prince of Wales Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair. Most of the events take place during the week between the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and her funeral. What makes the film worth watching in the first place isnt the bio-pic nature of it really, but the informal moments for such formal people. Director Stephen Frears shows the queen wearing wellies and driving herself around Scotland in an ancient Range Rover. He shows us the Blairs at home with their children. That is how the film fills 100 minutes whose story is one we already know.
First off, I love Ms. Mirren. I own several movies that she has been in and seen most of the others (Teaching Mrs. Tingle being a notable exception). I admire her ability to play just about any role and am grateful that she didnt insist on taking her clothes off for this film (anyone who knows her through the jokes and interviews will understand that). However, I cannot say that her performance here was stellar. It was good; it was consistent, but mainly it was dyspeptic. To be frank, if any actress purposefully ate several chili dogs before filming for the day, they would likely be able to play the role, even if those around her really wish she could find a better way to make a face that we all make before we get ready to belch but have to determine if something solid will follow the noise.
If you divide the movie into three acts, then the last one is the one worth watching. Act one is the discovery of the death and the decision that since Diana was no longer HRH, then nothing special need be done. Act two is PM Blair trying to explain to Elizabeth Regina that it is in her and the monarchys best interest to do something other than walk around Scotland in her wellies. Act three is recognition of this and a subtle thaw in the face that duty made permanent (which means for a lesser actress, one fewer chili dog).
The movie belongs to Ms. Mirren and Michael Sheen (PM Blair) and to a lesser extent Elizabeth the Queen Mum (Sylvia Syms) who most definitely represents the monarchy of old. Almost anyone else could be replaced with CGI or a puppet and I dont think anyone would notice. James Cromwell did everything in his power to matter, but since Prince Philip doesnt matter, he was fighting not only the film but history. He does a good job of being a foolish old man who has to walk 3 paces behind his wife and sovereign in public. I feel for him until he opens his mouth, then I wonder why Elizabeth Windsor didnt just pull a Henry and behead the dolt.
Ms. Mirren is the oldest recipient of the Actress in a Leading Role Oscar since Geraldine Page got it about a hundred years ago. I applaud Hollywood for recognizing that older women can act and some do it far better than the younger ones (it is easier to emote and remember your lines when you eat enough to do so). Still, I have to wonder why.
I expected both royal films (The Queen and The Last King of Scotland) to surpass Notes on a Scandal which got almost no attention, but did get Oscar nods. Neither royal film really matters in the long run. Both are essentially forgettable. However, Notes is real storytelling real acting and real drama. Each of the royal films were based on real things but both failed to deliver more than just average entertainment when taken in toto.
As I said about the Amin flick I also say about this one: it is average, but not more than thatgo in with few expectations and maybe it will measure up.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
What did you think of this review?
None of this conveys how funny the film is, or how deftly it flows from one scene to the next. Director Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things) deserves great credit for that, and for the performances, and for the movie's marvelous sense of well-roundedness; you could see this movie and groan at the cluelessness of the Royals and their outmoded existence, or you might just sympathize with showing reserve in a world that values gross public displays of ...