27 September 2006 | PizzicatoFishCrouch
Pointed and Impartial. Mirren is superb.
On the 1st of September 1997, the world saw tragedy. In the turmoil that followed, Princess Diana's death was blamed on the Media, the driver, and an entire array of others, before the upset and ill-meant malaise of the public was turned sneeringly to the Royal Family. In this film, we get a glimpse of what life was like inside Buckingham Palace, and whether The Queen (played here by Helen Mirren) was being cold and uncaring, or, if she was the one who was suffering most of all.
Director Stephen Frears recreates one week in 1997 with intelligent, deft strokes. The presentation of Princess Diana is artfully done in news snippets and archive footage, which brilliantly demonstrates the high impact her being had on people. The design of The Queen's home and her surroundings are convincing without being overly showy, and the Alexandre Desplat score is by turns dark, sad, and grand, perfectly summarizing the mindset of those involved.
But the film belongs to Helen Mirren, who takes on of her most challenging roles and showing us that behind the Queen lay a person, and one with feelings. In her role as the reigning lady, she is the epitome of suppressed disappointment and hurt. The Queen chose not to make a parade of her feelings in response to Diana's death, and, though the nation hated her for it, we learn here that it is not because she did not care, but because she honestly thought it the right thing to do.
As a young and newly elected Tony Blair with big aspirations and an even bigger grin, Michael Sheen is freakishly good as the Prime Minister. His performance shows a likable side of the prime minister in his refusal to side with the public over the denouncement of The Queen for her actions, and his attempts to make The Queen limit the damage that she has made is the basis for a very insightful story.
Other delights in this film come in some high-brow one-liners and some other good performances, but the best thing about it is how it manages to make you think, and even empathise with a group of people that you never saw yourself giving a toss about. At under 100 minutes, The Queen is funny, pointed and highly intelligent, showing that, as always, there are two sides to every story.