Bowwww to me!

Golden Mug

WINNER: Actress (Helen Mirren), Score (Alexandre Desplat)
NOMINEE: Director (Stephen Frears), Actor (Michael Sheen), Supporting Actor (James Cromwell)

Theatrical Release Date: 09/15/2006 (UK), 10/06/2006 (USA)
Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen

Landing stateside is one of the year’s surefire Academy Awards’ nominees for best actress.

“The Queen” attempts to portray the happening inside the British Royal Family during the week that followed the death of Princess Diana.

The conflict in the film stems from the resistance Her Majesty put up to publicly speaking about Diana’s death, seeing as she had divorced from Prince Charles nearly a year prior to that point and was no longer officially a member of the Royal Family.

Being an American, I can’t really relate to what a monarchy is supposed to represent or instill in me personally. I had heard or read that the appropriate parallel Americans could make would be the outrage and bewilderment that we would have felt if President Bush had not addressed the nation about 9/11.

That’s how important the monarchy is to the British people.

To portray such a weight topic, accomplished director Stephen Frears took the reins and tapped Helen Mirren to don the crown. And they couldn’t have made a better choice except, perhaps, Queen Elizabeth II herself.

There is plenty of buzz surrounding Mirren’s performance and it is all deserved. The actions of the Royal Family seem so cold and alien and yet it is Mirren’s stoic and exceptional portrayal that makes it believable.

Not to be outdone is Michael Sheen, who fills the shoes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. His part in the whole affair was to protect the monarchy from themselves.

The British people were upset with the Queen for her perceived lack of compassion and Blair was afraid the monarchy’s reputation could be irrevocably harmed.

To try and preserve its viability, he had to balance his desire to modernize the British Empire (which was the platform that won the election for him) with his belief in the tradition and sovereignty that the Queen represented.

Sheen’s performance is every bit as good, if not better, that Mirren’s. While I’m fully expecting at least an Oscar nomination for Mirren, I’d also like to see one for Sheen, even if it is in the supporting category.

The rest of the cast is well chosen, most notably James Cromwell as Prince Phillip (husband to QEII) and Alex Jennings as Prince Charles. And Frears and his crew did well on the other aspects of the film. From music to pacing to sense of realism, it all worked.

Frears used a lot of news footage to enhance and reinforce the gravity of the film. While this could have backfired, creating a jumbled sense of continuity, I thought it worked well.

Perhaps the biggest knock I could deliver to the film is that every now and then I felt like I was watching a melodrama rather than a attempt to depict such an important time for the British people.

Still, I’m giving “The Queen” a 4 out of 5. It is a great film and as long as you’re not looking for a sweeping romance, nuclear explosion, or Tony Jaa martial arts extravaganza, you’ll find your money well spent here.