As the death of Princess Diana still lingers on the mind of tabloid consumers and freak royalist fans, The Queen wishes to depict the behind-the-scenes events of such a period. What was the impact on the Royal Family during this time? Frankly, I’ve always found it a bit ghoulish to consider what happened and why, but I have more interesting topics to engage myself with. I am not, however, able to resist the temptations of James Cromwell in a supporting role. He wowed me with The Young Pope, and I am hungry for more. Coinciding with the death of Diana came the birth of New Labour, and there is certainly room for an interesting contrast to take place here, and that it does.
“Call me Tony, I don’t very much like that” utters The Queen (Helen Mirren). She is worried about the reforms this dashing young face of politics may provide. There is much to disseminate of the relationship between Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) and Elizabeth. Using 35mm film when depicting Elizabeth and 16mm film when showcasing Blair is a nice contrast that will appeal to the few who linger in the middle of the “film fans” and “British politics enthusiasts” Venn diagram. Mirren and Sheen have solid chemistry with one another and the set design around them is accurate. I should know, I’ve been in that house.
Much of the red tape between these two different lives is shown rather well. Frears’ direction is of no real acclaim, but he does well to balance the books on how the political system reacted and how the family reacted too to the death of Diana. There is a balance to be found, much more to be desired, but it gets the job done. Alex Jennings’ role as Prince Charles is a tad melodramatic, but he is ousted rather easily by the fantastic work Sheen provides. He hits the nail on the head with his portrayal of Blair and intercut with the random men and women walking the streets with grief gripping them, there is a strange understanding of the public mood. Why that was the public mood still confuses me, but it is best not to linger on such thoughts, as Frears offers no answers for these doubts.
“We’re in danger of losing too much that is good about this country,” says a painter of no name. He paints the Queen, who blesses him with conversation. That is very much the stance Frears takes when depicting Elizabeth, who is well-cast and performed exceptionally but has no ounce of interest or emotion. Oscar-winning it may be, the Academy loves a good impression. Still, Cromwell wears a kilt and Roger Allam has a supporting role, it’s hard to hate it all. Cromwell, in fact, is very, very good. Allam too, and it is a sad shame that the latter has not hit as high a notoriety as his talents should. It is roles such as Sir Robin Janvrin that equip him with notable appearances, but stuffy, emotionally removed roles.
Emotional exploitation for an event that concerned so few lives, yet affected so many. Frears and his ensemble do well to bring to life a series of tabloid movements and subsequently depict their opinion of the behind-the-scenes happenings. It is regal, royal and resolute. There is more of a story in here about Diana than there is about The Queen, and to the credit of Frears, he manages to craft this story without anyone being cast in the role. Smart work, but not interesting in the slightest. I will never understand the twister of interest that Diana became after she departed from the Royal Family, and I don’t think anyone could convince me that it is, truly, interesting. The outpouring of grief here is strange too, but I was not alive when she passed, and I will never have a full grasp on the emotional magnitude of events. All I know is it killed off Britpop.