Hollywood Hues
Royal treat
Ervell E. Menezes

Helen Mirren is brilliant as Elizabeth in The Queen
Helen Mirren is brilliant as Elizabeth in The Queen

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown," is a line that often referred to monarchs of old, embroiled in wars to extend or contain their empires. However, in Stephen Frears’ The Queen it is the social implications that he tackles with the skill of a surgeon and a throbbing heart.

From the outset, it is evident that Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) is not happy with the new occupant of 10 Downing Street because he is a modernist and likely to rid the Empire of "much that it stood for." And she has the support of her lackeys. So Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) appears to be enemy No 1. Without much ado, Stephen Frears, one of Britain’s leading filmmakers, zeroes in on the royal household, the nincompoop Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip (James Cromwell), the doddering, living-in-the past Queen Mother (Sylvia Syms) and the enigmatic, nonplussed Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) in this fictionalised version of the events that follow Diana’s death. The exalted life they lead comes across loud and clear. The early shots show Diana alive, doing her charity jaunts and becoming the public figure she was even after her estrangement from Charles. Then comes the tragic death and the widespread shock. Stone cold with the royal family but spontaneous, heartfelt for the thousands for whom she had become the People’s Princess. Would this deep divide grow and threaten the very future of the monarchy which is still strong in the country.

That’s where Blair comes in and in his position as Prime Minister it is his duty to intervene. "What a family," he says, disgustedly, of the royals, "will someone please save these people from themselves?" Ironically the task falls on him.

Of course, the press which is blamed for making Lady Di an icon is soon resorted to. The bumbling Duke tries to do his bit but he is mostly worried about the grandkids which gives him a chance to go hunting on the grounds of Balmoral Castle. The Queen’s two meetings with Blair stand out in contrast. The first, formal, cold. As for protocol ("it’s maam as in ham, not morm as in farm," he is instructed) it provides an insight into British tradition.

The second in more human and shows that even royalty has a human side. Her vehicle getting stuck in the river gives an insight of her mechanics role in the war. But her reaction to the stag that was shot is devastating in contrast. "I hope she did not suffer too much," she says.

It is 100 minutes of riveting entertainment and thanks to an imaginative screenplay by Peter Morgan one gets a very rounded picture of the happenings, the adulation of the people, the flowers and the sincere, spontaneous grief. Helen Mirren is brilliant as she outqueens the queen and at no time do we think of her as anyone but Queen Elizabeth. Not surprisingly, she picked the Best Actress Oscar for her efforts. Michael Sheen as Blair is also convincing as he mixes exuberance and at restraint. Alex Jennings’s Charles is at best middling. James Cromwell’s Prince Philip is good (but the make-up men could have done a better job) and so is Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother. Undoubtedly, an outstanding film.