The Queen is more fun than any movie about the violent death of a 36-year-old woman has a right to be. It's also as exotic an English-language picture as the season is likely to bring. Directed by Stephen Frears from Peter Morgan's script, The Queen is set in the peculiar bestiary that is Britain's royal family during the traumatic week between Diana Spencer's fatal car crash and the state funeral that the British public forced into existence. The film's theme is the monarchy in the age of mechanical reproduction. It opens by boldly quoting Shakespeare ("Uneasy lies the head . . .") and intimating a droll disdain for democracy by Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) in the face of "modernizer" Tony Blair's 1997 landslide. After Di's death, Elizabeth's instinct is to do nothing. Blair's is infinitely savvier. The new prime minister (look-alike Michael Sheen) steps into the breach, hailing Diana as "the people's princess." Frears cuts between the cheeky operatives in Blair's office and the clueless royals ensconced at Balmoral Castle. Although a great symbolic stag wanders into the proceedings as if from Narnia, it's the repeated use of Diana's actual image that, paradoxically, grounds the movie both in reality and myth.
Stephen FrearsHelen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Christopher Fosh, Forbes KB, Gavin Park, Stephen Samson, Elliot LeveyPeter MorganAndy Harries, Christine Langan, Tracey SeawardMiramax Films