While we were in Philadelphia, PJ and I saw Stephen Frears’s The Queen starring Helen Mirren. I’ve loved Helen Mirren at least since I saw her in Where Angels Fear to Tread. She is also great in Prime Suspect 3, The Madness of King George, Gosford Park, and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. Mirren’s performance in The Queen is no exception: she’s brilliant.

The Queen explores the royal family’s response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, a response predicated on tradition and decorum, and juxtaposes it with that of the country’s new prime minister, Tony Blair, played by Michael Sheen, who has been elected to “modernize” the country. Filling out the primary cast of characters are James Cromwell as Prince Philip, Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother, Alex Jennings as Prince Charles, and Helen McCrory as Cherie Blair.

A Granada production, the movie seems a little made-for-tv at times. The film’s point and its depiction of some of the royals stand out as good examples of this. First, over the course of the movie, Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth must learn to surrender some of her WWII-era notions of the sovereign’s duties, and Sheen’s Blair (and his Labour ministers) must learn to respect the traditional role of the monarchy. While this might be oversimplifying the movie’s point just a bit, it’s only just a bit. I was expecting something a little more complex.

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