Friday, April 27, 2007

The Queen - Movie Review

Movie Review by Zinta Aistars

Helen Mirren deservedly wins the award for best actress for her lead in The Queen, produced by Stephen Frears. The resemblence to the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, is remarkable in her physical appearance, but also in Mirren's every mannerism, her gaze, her speech. Mirren manages to capture this cool and highly controlled living historical figure with the subtle nuances that indicate warm(ish) blood beneath. It would have been easy to portray Elizabeth II as stiff royalty of robotic sensibilities, but instead, Mirren manages to bring to her a sense of a woman imprisoned by her upbringing and the constraints of her position. There is just a glimmer, now and then, of feeling beneath the proper etiquette, a glimpse of humanity beneath the thick mask of tradition that allows for almost none.

The Queen is portrayed at a time when tradition is forced to crack under "modernization," a favorite term of Tony Blair's (Michael Sheen), new and somewhat awkward prime minister playing a respectful if challenging second fiddle to Her Majesty. Princess Diana has just died in a horrific car accident, and the royal family is not prepared for a nation in grief, a nation, perhaps even spreading to a global community, that has little tolerance left for British cool. There is a sense of blame that sends electric currents through the Palace, who had expected support for their restraint but found instead their centuries old status threatened. Pushed to the limits of her tightly bound comfort zone, Elizabeth II manages to maintain royal grace under fire. A scene in which the Queen is stranded in the country as her vehicle breaks down midstream, and Her Majesty sits in the grass indulging in a secret moment of tears, is exquisite. Another, as she strolls beside the gates outside the Palace to view the flowers and cards left for Diana, many of which are crassly critical of the royal family, but still manages to reconnect to her people is a tension brought beautifully to a resolution - with a glance, with the most minimal nod of acknowledgment, with the acceptance of flowers from an admiring child.

A truly incredible performance, and a refreshingly new perspective on a time when media showed us only one view, from the outside of Buckingham Palace looking in.

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