Monday, November 06, 2006

The Queen

Imagine a film where you get a slice of life of a family. Pretty boring, eh? Not in this case, not if the family is the royal one sitting in Buckingham Palace.

The Queen is an intimate portrayal of the entire British royal family during one week in 1997, the week after Diana died. The Royal Family does nothing. Throughout the week, as the crowds in front of the palace grow more acrimonious and Prime Minister Tony Blair makes more phone calls to the Queen, they still do nothing. Finally we see Blair and the Queen reach a compromise to the public's demand for some recognition of her death.

You have to remember throughout the movie that 90% of this film is someone's imagination as to what actually was happening behind closed doors. I mean, no one else would be in that bedchamber when Prince Philip wished his "cabbage" a good night. It's even kind of ludicrous that we would even guess. But we know how the queen felt about Diana -- she was not fond of her at all -- and we know that during much of the week that followed Diana's death, we saw no public acknowledgement from the royals. And we know that, finally, the Queen came out of the Palace and slowly looked at all the flowers leaning tentatively against the palace walls. And we know her final public statement. So, the filling-in-between seems logical and even, if I dare say, moving.

It goes without saying that Helen Mirren is this decade's miracle of an actress. She inhabits the role, which is all the more surprising because in this case it's the role of a living, breathing monarch. I had to remind myself when my seat mate whispered, "Isn't she magnificent?" that I was actually watching an actress play the role. And actor Michael Sheen has that same Cheshire smile as Tony Blair. He's quite good. James Cromwell is arresting as Philip, an American in a British role in an interesting bit of casting. I must admit I was taken aback by Alex Jennings as Charles. I grew up with Charles, and Charles-watched throughout my life. Jennings looks nothing like him, but he had it in the eyes and the smile in his portrayal as a weak man who knew the pull Diana had on the masses. And there's a bit of humor in the sodden portrayal of the Queen Mother (by Syliva Syms) who is about to have a cow that they're using her own approved funeral route.

But more than a depiction of one week in British history, it's a raw comparison between a royal family and an "ordinary" family, if you can call the prime minister's circumstances normal. We would get one scene in the palace, juxtapositioned against one in Blair's house, and get the sense of how far removed the royals really are from living a normal life, and, more essentially, what the public expects and demands from the royal class. It's fascinating to see that comparison and, because most of us live toward the Blair side, intriguing to wonder what goes on there. It's less, and still more, than you might think.

Thumb's up.


At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one character not developed in the film was Diana herself.  While "the people's princess" remains the  icon of superficial popular culture, it was a very different Diana -- behind the facades of glamour and pseudo-compassion -- whom the Royal family knew personally.

Both Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder caused by their mother's abandoning them as young children.  A google search reveals that Diana is considered a case study in BPD by mental health professionals.

For Charles Spencer, BPD meant insatiable sexual promiscuity (his wife was divorcing him at the time of Diana's death). For Diana, BPD meant intense insecurity and insatiable need for attention and affection which even the best husband could never fulfill. 

From a BPD perspective, it's clear that the Royal family did not cause her "problems". Rather, she brought her multiple issues into the marriage, and the Royal family was hapless to deal with them.

Her illness, untreated, sowed the seeds of her fast and unstable lifestyle, and sadly, her tragic fate.


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