Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Queen

I watched this movie for the second time today and was again struck with how very convincing it is. It succeeded where "W" didn't at portraying living characters in the very recent present. Many attempts at this (W for sure) end up looking and acting like a drag show. Its uncomfortable to watch if you aren't supposed to be laughing and if it isn't supposed to be funny. The Queen somehow succeeds in creating a world so very present yet removed from the reality of the royal family living today. It works as a film, not just as documentation.

Helen Mirren might have something to do with this. She is spectacular in the role. Right down to the walk. The Academy rewarded her for this and rightly so (I am saying this all in a British accent, just so that's clear). We are transfixed by her and immediately get it. We get why there was conflict and we get why she acted the way she did upon Diana's funeral. We aren't on her side necessarily, but we immediately enter an understanding of the misunderstanding.

I am also, of course, attracted to this film for its indulgence. It is like reading tabloid, and it gives us what we ask for. You like it for that reason too, and you know it. We are obsessed with this family, even after tabloids killed the Princess. We can't help it and neither could they. Its ridiculous, actually, how much press this funeral created. And that, we learn, is the queen's point... stop with the obsession! It's exactly what killed her! Respect privacy (priv-a-see, not pry-va-see), grieve in solitude, maintain decorum. Why couldn't they see that? Blair and his merry men.

The interesting thing about this view is that she never said this outright, not even privately. She didn't want a soapbox, and that, too, is her point. Get a grip, England, Mirrem conveyed so clearly with her furrowed brow and slight eye roll. Stop with your cameras and bleeding hearts. Its a private matter. She wasn't heartless, not at all. She just had a completely different understanding of the British people. (See how convincing it was?! I find myself wanting to fight for Elizabeth's voice.)

I also loved how this film showcased the Queen's aptitude for hunting. So funny, when you think about it. Like, if you were royalty, how would you spend your time? These people hunt stag and drive army vehicles and chase around with dogs. They pack their lunch and bring canteens of tea and leftover lamb stew. Its simply fantastic. This is the indulgence I mentioned before of being granted entrance into these people's lives. It is tabloid and it is interesting. We can't help it.

I read somewhere that when a member of the real Queen's entourage (for lack of better term) was asked how Elizabeth would react to the film if she ever chose to see it, the answer was easy and predictable. She would sigh, nod in agreement, and ask for her evening gin.

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