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Monday, November 13, 2006

Stephen Frears' THE QUEEN

helen mirren as queen elizabeth II in the queen

Have I ever spoken about my personal interest of the British Royal Family? Especially those of the early 20th century, a generation before Queen Elizabeth 2, we have the Abdication of King Edward VIII (for a commoner woman he loved, Wallis Simpson, how romantic and dramatic! ... of course, there were more than that, with her having Nazi connections and all, but that's a tale you should go read on Wikipedia, not here) King George VI (father of Elizabeth II) taking over reluctantly and then with World War 2 taking a toll on his health, indirectly causing him to die at the age of 56 (similar to how King George V's health was affected by World War 1). I'm even kinda intrigued by Prince George, Duke of Kent (younger brother of King George VI), who died in a mysterious plane accident and had a colourful personal life (long string of affairs with both men and women before his marriage... good-looking guy, he), or the youngest Prince John, who died from epilepsy when he was only 14, and since then, no members of the royal family will ever be named John because it's bad luck.

michael sheen as tony blair in the queenAnyway, I'm not going to bore everyone to death, on with the film, The Queen is a fictionalized account of what happened to Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family in that one week after Princess Diana's death. Their decision to mourn this privately drew heavy flak from the public, who felt that the Royal Family were being emotionless and cold, while Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), riding a wave of popularity months after being elected as Prime Minister, had to clash with the Queen and the Family, modernism versus tradition, desire versus duty, that kind of thing.

It's compelling stuff, and funny too when you see the day-to-day lives of the members of the Royal Family, who seemed so unbelievably cut away from the public, the idea of Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother watching TV, or Queen Elizabeth driving a car (she was a mechanic back in WW2, thus supposedly very technically efficient with car engines and stuff), Prince Charles angsting about Princess Diana and then attempting to gain Tony Blair's favour in dealing with his own family. Are these all real? I almost wished they were.

The film is generally praised for humanizing the Royal Family (well, most of all Queen Elizabeth herself), making them sympathetic and their actions during Princess Diana's death almost justifiable, and yes, I think it's a quality film, and thus far I think Helen Mirren is the clear frontrunner for the Oscars. Her performance in the film is absolutely superb (because I ended up really believing that I was watching Queen Elizabeth on screen... whoa). But Justin, who felt that this film was pretty much propaganda (though he does not deny the quality of the film), did come up with an interesting question.

What would happen if there's a film called 'The President' and it's about humanizing and making George W. Bush sympathetic, revolving around the few days that led to him declaring war upon Iraq, and then the pain he had to suffer when people didn't believe about WMD even if they were REAL, or his desperation to prove that hitting Iraq is the only way, yet an unpopular one blah blah. The people he had sworn to lead turning against him and stuff like that. Wonder how will a film like that be received (... well, the closest thing we might have to that is Dennis Quaid in American Dreamz).


Anyway, my personal memories of Princess Diana's death isn't that vague, I was 14, was in Singapore with dad, remembered seeing news of the accident in the morning, then went off to watch Hercules in the cinema, then coming back and finding out she had died. Was pretty shocked then.

Trailer of The Queen