AN UNFORTUNATE THUMBS DOWN FILM REVIEW RATING!
Sometimes it's a hit or miss with directors, and with Stephen Frears at the helm the odds of a film being a success versus failure are about fifty/fifty. He has given us some excellent cinema such as High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons, and The Grifters. But sometimes his movie eye misses the mark or lacks an intriguing or well-rounded story. Mrs. Henderson Presents, Mary Reilly, and Hero are just a sprinkling of Frear films that had a good shot at being great, but ultimately failed in coherency, pacing, or some other aspect.
THE QUEEN is certainly a film with some great acting. Helen Mirren is spot-on as Queen Elizabeth II, as was Michael Sheen in his portrayal of Tony Blair. But from here the cast sags quite a bit. James Cromwell picked up the part of Prince Philip, but seemed very out of place since he has been typecast in such things as The West Wing TV series and The Sum of All Fears flick. And Sylvia Syms (as The Queen Mother) and Alex Jennings (as Prince Charles) were difficult to see in their respective roles since they are still in the public eye. Although Queen Elizabeth is still in the spotlight, Helen Mirren's strong portrayal made that role much easier to swallow.
Fresh subjects are tough to hit upon anyway, and you have to give credit where it is due; Stephen Frears certainly deserves some acclaim for simply attempting to make a film about the Royal Family and their reaction (or non-reaction) to Princess Diana's accidental death. But herein lies another problem: plot. There isn't one. The Queen is a reactionary tale, focusing mainly on Queen Elizabeth and the newly installed Prime Minister Tony Blair, and how each of them views the country's response to Di's death. Of course, the Queen deals with it by not dealing with it. While Mr. Blair continually tries to save the monarchy from self-destructing due to their own ignorance of the peoples' grief. But there isn't a definitive beginning, middle and ending to the story. It's character study of the monarchy will probably be boring to many, especially in the beginning. Most viewers may feel like dozing off after the first twenty minutes of disinteresting royal uppityness.
Although the beginning and middle of the film lag, the ending picks up just enough to make it watchable. The excellent shots of Balmoral Castle and its Scottish surroundings were fairly awesome, as were some analogies regarding the royal deer that roam the outback wildlands.
If you enjoy a good modern day character study, and are interested in the current monarchy, you'll probably eat this film up. But if you're eager for something plot-driven and deeply intriguing, you best look elsewhere.