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The Queen

4 stars

Not profound, but profoundly entertaining. As the British would say, this film is never wrong-footed. If you're the least bit interested in the British monarchy, Tony Blair or even Britain in general, this is a must-see. It is the story of the week Pricess Diana died, told from the perspective of the Royal Family, particularly Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren). James Cromwell is, by every account I ever read, letter perfect as Prince Phillip, and they have the good sense to show Diana only in film clips. I've seen Prince Charles, and even in 1977 his hair didn't look as good as Alex Jennings does (and the bald spot in the back is nowhere near big enough). Sylvia Sims is an astounding queen mother, and Michael Sheen is a spot-on Tony Blair. But reviewing the quality of the imitations would be like reviewing an SNL skit on the same basis, and in both cases, it's a little beside the point. The point is that director Stephen Frears and writer Peter Morgan make it possible to imagine what the hell caused the Royal Family to stay at Balmoral for almost a week before returning to London to lead the hysterical national mourning for a woman they (Charles excepted) despised. Charles has the best line on that: "The people will never know the Diana we knew. They are mourning the Diana they knew." The film does rather make it look like the front-page editors of tabloid newspaper run Britain, although I am sure they would say they say they simply accurately reflect public opinion.

Three great scenes. In one, Tony Blair stands in his library and talks to the Queen in her library. The contrast between the libraries is a loving piece of set decoration. In the other pair of scenes, we see the Queen try to save a 14-point buck from death, and then view the body after its head has been chopped off for trophy purposes. The stag clearly represents both death and innocence--that is, Diana--and the Queen displays classic transference when she cries, for the only time in the film, at the thought of its death.

As always, you wish there were footnotes (well, at least I wish there were footnotes) so you cold tell which parts are true and which are made up. As an interested observer of the British monarchy, I recognized numerous well-researched moments and even more plausible moments (they really did use the funeral plan they had for the Queen Mother), along with what were, I am sure, flights of pure fancy. In short, the usual docu-drama mix. I can't imagine HRH EII is going to care much for the film, but I say she should like it--it humanizes the Royal Family and explains a bit of their weirdness.

Oscars are in order for everyone in sight.