PG-13 for cattiness. Man, there's a lot of backbiting and spitefulness in this movie. In terms of content, there's not a lot that is objectionable. There's implications that Princess Diana was a trollop. Both Charles and Diana had affairs, so that's not exactly family friendly. I think there's some mild language. Also, you know, Princess Diana died. That's a thing. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears
It feels like the series finale of The Crown. It's actually weird because The Crown somehow feels more cinematic than The Queen. I don't know what got me into this kind of stuff. I mean, I probably would have seen The Queen eventually. It's on a list and I'm a sucker for lists. But now, mainly because I'm constantly in a state of trying to impress my wife. I watch stuff like Downton Abbey and Victoria. (Okay, I haven't seen Victoria. But I'm tempted to start that tonight because we're hanging out with my parents.) I don't know what it is about the royal family that makes us so intrigued. This actually spirals into what the big idea of this movie is all about.
Until watching fictionalized versions of the Royal Family, I never really got what people's obsession with them was. I mean, if you were in England, half of the obsession would make a bit of sense. But The Queen, and this seems like a gross misinterpretation, is also a commentary on celebrity. Part of what Frears seems to be shooting at is that the Crown is not traditional celebrity. Diana played in both of those sandboxes. She was a member of the Royal Family for a bit, but then she hobnobbed with fashion designers and other folks who make media headlines. The whole celebrity thing bums me out. I certainly admire certain artists and would love to rub elbows with them. But I often don't want to subscribe to a political ideology because a celebrity tells me to. I don't need to know who is dating whom, although I'm still heartbroken about Jennifer Garner being a single mom and want Amy Poehler and Will Arnett to give it another shot. The movie almost intentionally doesn't give us a clear cut answer on who is right. Most of the film feels pretty condemning when it comes to looking at the Crown. It has to be a bizarre world, being a member of the Royal Family. Intellectually, you have to be a dynamo. There's all kinds of knowledge you have to have. You have to keep up with current events. But then, there's the constant ceremony and formality. I adore that the Queen drives around in her ancient Range Rover, which she respects because she used to be a mechanic. But then there's the other end of the spectrum where they look like complete jerks because they can't divorce the ceremony with the purpose for the ceremony. Everything is big picture to them. That's interesting, but it is also incredibly frustrating. We get to see all of this from the eyes of newly elected PM Tony Blair. Blair, constantly shown as a working common man, despite his lofty title, can't even fathom the aristocracy (I know, it's not a perfect word in this situation).Blair enters the world of the Queen, which might not be the most apt title for this film, with a sense that the monarchy is outdated. He isn't as cavalier as to say that the monarchy should be done away with, but he does seem to view it as a bunch of pomp and circumstance.
I love the complexity of the result. Blair, throughout the film, is kind of seen as a the good guy from all sides except from the Crown themselves. From the nation's perspective, Blair is doing all he can to maintain a fragile relationship between a country in mourning and an emotionally distant monarchy. He's the hero for the majority of the movie. Even his slimy adviser who acts as a PR guy likes him because he's getting amazing publicity. From an audience perspective, he also seems to be the only one with his head screwed on straight. We never really laugh at Blair's ideas or comments. Rather, we tend to guffaw at things that the nobility say. Blair is used as our grounding rod. He reminds us of the reality. One of the things that happens when we watch our Downton Abbeys and the like is that we start thinking like the aristocracy. Seriously, binge that show and I dare you to not get offended when someone starts dating the driver. When you first start watching the show, you don't know why everyone gets out of shape if some of the downstairs folk wear the wrong tuxedo to dinner. By the end, you are screaming for a need for a second valet for the annual garden show. By showing Blair at home, we remember that we too come from the real world. Blair's house is a mess. Board games (BOARD! GAMES!) festoon Blair's apartment. He's making calls that will affect the planet while doing dishes. That's great. But it creates this wonderful juxtaposition. I mean, Phillip cooks too, but it's over this outdoor grill that he's annoyed by in the middle of what looks like Scotland.
The film is an interesting look at grief and mourning. I suppose that everyone somewhat has a sense of misplaced grief in the movie. I mean, that makes me a horrible person, saying that people who never met Diana can't grieve Diana. I think I get the concept of grieving Diana. She changed the world. But what I'm commenting on is the conceptual mourning and the personal relationships that people think that they have with celebrities. Our sympathy is with the British people. I know that Diana represented a lot. But I'm allowed to mourn important people. I know that I'm a closed-off demon of a human being, but people I really respected died in the past few years. Leonard Nimoy knocked me on my butt, as did Stan Lee. But people were offering me their condolences when these strangers died. I thought those guys were the world, but I also didn't mourn them like I actually knew them. I watched a Star Trek movie for Nimoy. I read some comics per usual for Lee. It was something far more personal. So can I comment on some people's grieving process? I don't know if the wailing can really apply to anyone I don't know. Mind you, I also have a cold relationship with death and grieving. But look at the other end of the spectrum. The Royal Family, who has a strained, but actual relationship with Diana are so distantly removed from her death. Her death is actually a burden on them. Charles, who is at least somehow moved by his ex-wife's death, views it as a political move. That's at least something. Every time that Philip mentions that they should go stalking, there's an uncomfortable guffaw that comes out of me. It's so much. At the end of the film, no one is really right. It's so awkward, and that's '90s me talking.
I think that this movie gets the most attention from Helen Mirren's performance. She's great, but it's odd how this is what gets her attention. A lot of this performance comes from an amazing use of makeup. Elizabeth is very reserved as a human being. That's what I gather from the many performances I've seen of her. Every time we see a performance of Elizabeth, we have to comment how odd it must be to actually be Elizabeth. So many people keep playing her and she's still alive. She can see this. It doesn't seem very flattering, in the least. It's also weird that the guy who plays Charles is both in The Crown and Victoria. He really rides high on being a member of the Royal Family. Does he have a certain look that makes him appear in all of these films? From a performance stance, it is really pretty good. But I have to question why having James Cromwell play Phillip? I mean, I guess I should have discussed this before this moment, but is it really necessary to have Americans play Brits. I know we all get excited when a Brit convincingly plays an American. We all lose our minds. But I don't think that the inverse is necessarily true. I bet they hate that. I know that I would never want to parrot someone's accent back to them. Is it because James Cromwell plays such a good grumpus that no one really questions it? I also love Michael Sheen, but it's such an interesting performance. I think that Michael Sheen, for some reason, is one of those actors who really picks his roles. There's something special about seeing him in a movie, but really it's just that he's not in a ton of things. This movie was so packed with actors that I actually had no idea what the movie was really about. When I discovered that the whole movie was about Diana's funeral, I was taken aback. It just didn't seem like that kind of movie.
The Queen is a good movie. I don't think I'm selling anyone on that one. My wife was disappointed because it almost seems so ordinary with the constant reminder of what the common people were thinking. I think people watch stuff like The Crown to entrench themselves in the world of the monarchy. The Queen isn't necessarily a fancy movie, but it hits a lot of the same buttons. It's so weird because it's on the cover of my 1001 Must-See Movies Before You Die book, so someone must think that it is pretty important. Watch it. It did its job.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.