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Photo Credit :: Queen
Arts & Entertainment
The Queen
By Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
January 12, 2007 
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As a cinematic analyst of power, sex, money, and deceit, and the relationships therein, the director/screenwriter Stephen Frears has few peers. Think of his early oeuvre, films such as The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons, My Beautiful Laundrette—and now, his latest, The Queen. A brilliant examination of the privilege and entitlement of the royals, The Queen also posits an explanation for the celebrity-besotted world in which we now find ourselves members. Consider that the addition of Princess Diana into the royal family, even if only temporarily, heralded the demise of a certain kind of rectitude and diplomacy which, as manifest in the behavior of Queen Elizabeth II, had long held sway in England. Say goodbye to standards and hello paparazzi.

With her mediagenic personality and her photogenic features, Diana was nearly antithetical to the Queen who has long espoused an icy distance as the best means of ruling an unruly, football-loving nation. While the Queen has always worked to insure that her gloves cover her wrists and that every helmet-haired curl is in place, Diana represented the Age of Nothing-Too-Sacred-For-Public-Consumption. (Colonic irrigation, anyone?) The changing of the guard, indeed.

And Frears does an excellent job at capturing the Queen’s befuddlement. This royal monarch cannot fathom how the world has changed—when she has not. The isolation is self-induced and complete. She lives her life according to the vow she took as a young girl: to serve her nation until death. And nothing shall stand in her way: not her first-born heir who has come of age—and least of all, his flibbertigibbet wife. Helen Mirren does an uncanny actualization of someone most of us know best from photographs. Queen Elizabeth might still be living—but for most of us, she exists as if preserved in amber. And it’s a testament to Mirren’s acting, and Frears’ nuanced direction, that this Queen becomes also something of a doting grandmother—one who would bring a Tupperware container of lamb stew to a picnic. Furthermore, her husband, wickedly portrayed by James Cromwell of Babe fame, fondly calls her “Cabbage,”—as in “Move over, Cabbage, I’m coming to bed.” “Cabbage” as an endearment, and the woman who tolerates it—such a detail goes a long way toward humanizing such a model of frosty decorum.

What a shame then that the Queen was apparently unable to have exhibited more warmth to her daughter-in-law. But then The Queen shows a woman who has long been more inspired by a thirteen-point stag than the common touch of the “people’s princess.” In the end, The Queen is a story as old as parents and children, and the inevitable passing of the torch. And yet, as Fears’ film shows, this Queen is not going “gentle into that good night,”—not until she’s good and ready.