Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Helen Mirren Reigns In “The Queen”

I first really noticed Helen Mirren through her breath-taking performance in Robert Altman’s 2001 film, “Gosford Park.” This extraordinary period piece is a must see. Dame Helen plays the role of an emotionally dried-up servant who never recovered from the heartbreak of having had taken away from her the son she conceived when the randy lord of the manor had his way with her when she was younger and less plain. In a film chock full of extraordinary actors and brilliant acting, Helen Mirren’s anguished soul stood out as the best of the best. She offers a similarly understated and thoughtful performance in “The Queen,” in which she plays the subtly complex role of HRH Elizabeth II.

I have spoken in the past of the fine work done by Ty Burr, movie critic for the Boston Globe. I agree almost totally with Ty’s assessment of this film, so I offer the link to his review.

The one point at which I take issue with Ty’s reaction to the film is his dismissal of the scene with the stag. I found this scene to be riveting and important. Princess Di was hounded to death and stalked to her death by the relentless paparazzi. In an ironic twist, Prince Phillip decides to help keep Princess Di’s orphaned sons occupied and away from the TV coverage of their mother’s death by taking them out each day hunting on the 40,000 Royal Estates in Balmoral, Scotland. He does not call the search for the stag “hunting,” but rather, “stalking.” In a memorable scene, Queen Elizabeth, whose monarchy is in danger of going in the ditch as a result of the stubborn course she has steered in refusing to publicly acknowledges Princess Di’s death - since she was “no longer an HRH” - drives her old Land Rover onto the ford of a stream – where it bogs down. As she sits and waits to be rescued from her own foolishness, she encounters the stag – majestic and unafraid. It is clear that the stag stands in for both the dead Princess Di and for the younger Elizabeth – once proud and intrepid. She shoos the stag away to temporary safety, but he is eventually shot by a visitor to a neighboring manor. In a telling scene, she privately views the remains of the stag – more moved by his death than by the demise of her erstwhile daughter-in-law.

There are many films that have been released in recent weeks that are getting buzz and box office. The less-heralded “The Queen,” is well worth paying homage to.



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