An amazing performance about a confounding subject.
Written By: Peter Morgan
Directed By: Stephen Frears
I will admit to not understanding the fascination the general public had with Princess Diana. To me she wasn’t worthy of any of the praise she received while alive nor worthy of the attention given to her in death. She was popular and well known because of the cult of celebrity, and she gave some money to various charities, but she didn’t do anything that made her a remarkable person or someone worthy of rapt attention. The Queen does a splendid job of taking on the idea of the cult of celebrity versus the old guard. I did find myself siding with the Queen when it came to how Diana’s death should be handled. But, at the same time I understood what the public reaction was and that no matter how in the right the Queen may have been, she needed to relent to the public consensus. Michael Sheen’s portrayal of Tony Blair bridges the gap between the two sides and allows for people on both sides to understand the situation and to feel for what the Queen was going through. That viewpoint allows us to connect with the story, otherwise the Queen would have been an island unto herself.
Outside of the issue of cult of celebrity and the idea of old ideals versus new ideals The Queen rests on the shoulders of Helen Mirren and her performance as the Queen. It is a powerful performance without being powerful. There are movies where actors must be loud, over the top or pushy to get their character across, but there are also movies where the tone is quiet and muted and the actors need to match that tone. Miss Mirren is superb as the Queen because she understands this. There isn’t anything overt about her performance, it is subtle and small. She brings the Queen to life because of how human she makes her in her reactions and interactions. You can see the clinging to tradition, the mixed feelings for Diana, the struggle to deal with the situation and the disenchantment with the modern public. Miss Mirren displays all these facets with a simple look or a smartly termed sentence. Her performance is simplicity done perfect.
The Queen is a character movie and it works as a character movie. It could have been a bit more fleshed out, but what we are given is a superb performance. A superb performance by an actress that the entire movie hinges on. Helen Mirren delivers and so does The Queen.