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The Queen.

THE QUEEN Directed by Stephen Frears (Miramax, 2006)

Just a year after her triumphal performance as the regal Elizabeth I in the HBO miniseries, Dame Helen Mirren has taken on the crown again in Stephen Frears' scathing study of the royal ruins of Elizabeth II's ceremonial monarchy. In her first outing as Good Queen Bess, Mirren--who has won repeated accolades for her portrayals of iron maidens and virgin queens like Prime Suspect's Detective Inspector Jane Tennison and Gosford Park's headmistress Mrs. Wilson--showed audiences the grit and guts with which England's first queen forged the era named after her. But in Frears' film the current occupant of Buckingham Palace lives in a decidedly post-Elizabethan era, and her subjects see the queen's ramrod spine and stoic manners as signs of cold and aloof indifference, not courage or conviction.

Recounting the tale of the week Princess Diana was killed in a Paris car crash, Frears and Mirren take us inside the decaying doll house of England's royal family, with unsettling dose-ups of the dysfunctional cast running around behind the royal curtains and sweeping aside the tattered remains of our Cinderella fantasies about Charles and Diana. Behind all the pomp and ceremony this modern major monarchy turns out to be nothing more than a celebrity family whose real purpose is to provide tabloids and talk shows with endless streams of gossip. "What--we ask ourselves--are the royals doing tonight?"

And so The Queen does more than point an unflattering light at Elizabeth II and her clan. In a film illustrating the irrelevance of England's ceremonial monarchy, Frears also turns over the rock of our modern and often pathological obsession with celebrities, suggesting that the age of Diana, with its endless public confessions and canniballike feasting on the scabs of ruined lives, is hardly an improvement on what came before. Replacing royal celebrities with political ones does little to move us into the age of reason--or adulthood.
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Author:McCormick, Patrick
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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