Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Queen of Hearts

Sadeeq and I watched The Queen on DVD this weekend.

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.


Blogger Scotty said...

Speaking of movies, Darryl Ann and I watched Fellowship of Ring last night with Wonderdog who came home a little later into it and we were all remembering the days of group movie goings, extended release anticipation and LOTR parties. Those were some good times!!

May 09, 2007 12:23 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Ah, I'm getting misty-eyed just thinking of it.

When it comes down to it, the Fellowship was the best of those movies, don't you think?

May 09, 2007 12:27 PM  
Blogger Scotty said...

Hands-down the best of the three. It's one of those 'comfort zone' movies for me. I just love to have it on.

May 09, 2007 12:47 PM  
Anonymous HRH Elizbeth II said...

Fellowship of the Ring? By that strange little Catholic fellow?
We are not amused.

May 09, 2007 1:46 PM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen even though, as you pointed out, there's not much drama to it ... The script, which had to imagine what was actually said between the Queen and Mr. Blair, just set up a delightfully wicked comedy of manners

May 09, 2007 3:04 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Hi Reel Fantastic,

I appreciate your take on the film, and I did like the conversations between Blair and the Queen. I just didn't think they were enough to hang an entire movie on. That said, though, I actually did like the movie; I just didn't love it.

May 09, 2007 4:09 PM  

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