November 6, 2009

Justify My Netflix: The Queen

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Queen

Today's movie: The Queen, 2006 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this multiple award winner from film veteran Stephen Frears (Prick Up Your Ears, Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity and many more) tells a simple yet intriguing story I thought worth checking out, the supposed inside story of what exactly happened behind the scenes among not only the British royal family but also the Prime Minister's office after the unexpected death of Princess Diana in 1997. Because Helen Mirren was especially singled out for her gutsy, complex portrayal of the often dowdy-seeming Queen Elizabeth II, which I also thought worth checking out.

The reality: Thoughtful and well-done, if not exactly riveting. In fact, if I were to compare it to anything, it'd be the late-'70s adaptation of All the President's Men, the wonky nonfiction book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that laid out exactly how they ended up breaking the Watergate scandal of the Nixon presidency. Like that movie, The Queen is not too terribly much more than a dry, factual recounting of exactly what happened during this tumultuous time in recent British history, a time in fact when the monarchy came the closest it'd been in several hundred years to actually being dissolved, mostly because of the public's uproar over the lack of sympathy shown by the royal family to the death of the popular "people's princess;" but as this fair-minded movie shows, there was actually a very good reason that the monarchy reacted to Diana's death in the way they did, with the film ending up becoming a much more general debate concerning the old way the British used to do things back at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign (stiff upper lip, steely resolve, quiet dignity, &c.), versus the tabloid-obsessed, reality-show "let it all hang out" times that the UK had reached by the 1990s and the end days of Elizabeth's reign. It's fascinating to watch the clash of these two cultures during this legitimately upsetting time for both Great Britain and the whole world, and especially the ways that such middle-agers as Prince Charles and Tony Blair get caught in the middle of it all; but it's also a talky, action-light film that many will rightly accuse of being a snoozer. Fantastic in some eyes, skippable in others'; I have a feeling that you already know which camp you yourself fall into.

Strangest piece of trivia: Scenes of the royal family in this movie were shot on 35mm film, while those of the Blair family were shot on grainier 16mm, to emphasize a subtle, more 'actiony' difference between the two households.

Worth your time? If you like talky, award-winning British films, then yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 1:52 PM, November 6, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |