Queen of Hearts
It's an interesting movie, but not a very dramatic one. Interesting, because it sets up a fascinating contrast between Queen Elizabeth II -- stoic and dignified, loyal to a country and a people that endured the Blitz -- and Diana, the "people's Princess" -- emotionally demonstrative and confessional, glamorous, victimized, and celebrity-besotted -- in a way that is almost entirely favorable to the Queen. Not very dramatic, because we already know how it all turns out, and the screenplay is unable to create enough psychological nuance and complexity to make the process of getting from one historical event to another either compelling or suspenseful.
Tony's Blair's function in the plot is noteworthy. Blair, who is presented as a creature of the shallow soundbite culture that reveres "the people's Princess," is also the character who comes to understand and speak for the older, more dignified era.
I like the way that Diana appears onscreen only in images from one of her many interviews and video clips, and I like the way that the various images of Diana, "Queen of Hearts," compete with the portrayal of Elizabeth II, Queen of England. The competing images are particularly effective during one of the movie's final scenes, in which the Queen and the rest of the royal family refuse to join in the tacky applause that fills Westminster Abbey following Charles Spencer's rather crass eulogy for his sister. As the Queen responds in stony silence to the applause, there's a shot of Diana and her trademark chin-lowered, eyes-raised look -- a look that appears to revel in the applause and to triumph over all the musty old values to which Elizabeth II's life has paid tribute. It's ironic that, if this movie enhances the Queen's popularity, it does so mostly by means of the same shallow image-making that put Queen Elizabeth at such a disadvantage in her "competition" with Diana for the people's affection.
Strangely, The Queen reminded me of a couple of movies that seem to be popular among young girls these days; at least, I know they're popular with my own "princesses." The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2 tell the story of a young American woman who discovers she is a princess of the fictional country of Genovia, and the movies chart the course of her coming to terms with her "princess-hood." In the second movie, the princess is in a bind because the laws of Genovia require that the queen of Genovia be married. She weasels out of an arranged marriage -- literally at the altar -- by convincing the parliament of Genovia to change their law. The villain of the movie tries to persuade them not to change the law by pointing out that "every time this charming young woman opens her mouth, she shows a contempt for our law and traditions," and he's absolutely right. There's one particular tradition, though, that Princess Mia accepts without question, and that's the most "antiquated" tradition of all -- the tradition of hereditary succession.
It's because Mia is a princess that these movies appeal to their young audience in the first place. Likewise, it's because Diana was a princess that she first appealed to all those people who later saw her as a victim of "the establishment."
If we like Queen Elizabeth at the end of The Queen, we like her because she's the Queen.
The Queen of Hearts is dead (may she rest in peace). Long live the Queen.