The Queen

July 22, 2007 - It's not easy being queen. But, Helen Mirren won Oscar gold for her performance as Britain's Elizabeth II in this 2006 drama which makes good use of news footage of the events surrounding the life and death of Princess Diana. James Cromwell is Prince Philip and Michael Sheen is Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The movie is set in the late summer of 1997. Tony Blair is just beginning his term as Prime Minister and the royal family is looking forward to spending time at Balmoral in Scotland. Then, Diana had to go and ruin it all by getting herself killed in a car crash in France.

What's a royal family to do? The Queen, who came of age during World War II, wants to keep things private and shelter Princes William and Harry. Her husband, Philip, seems to believe there's nothing that going hunting won't cure.

But, Blair recognizes that, in this case, a stiff upper lip just won't do. The people loved Diana and they need the royal family to show that they loved her, too. Blair's pleadings finally have an effect when he tells the Queen that the silence of the royal family threatens to damage the monarchy forever.

Overall review: **** A fascinating look at how time stands still within the palace walls. Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth as a woman who cares about her family and her country, but who doesn't realize that it's not the same country that it used to be. She seems out of touch - or somehow above - the people and their situation. Rather like President Bush and his slow response to Katrina, you have to shake your head when, a day or two after Diana's death, the Queen is told about all the flowers outside Buckingham Palace and she says, "What flowers?" Still, you don't come away hating the Queen, but you wish she were a little more likeable.