JT Film Review

83 – The Queen (2006)

The Queen REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Stephen Frears

Cast – Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, Alex Jennings, Helen McCrory, Roger Allam, Sylvia Sims

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The Queen is a film by Stephen Frears, and is the second of writer Peter Morgan’s “Tony Blair Trilogy”, in which Michael Sheen plays the British Prime Minister. The first is The Deal, a TV movie from 2003 about Blair’s rise to power, and the third will be The Special Relationship, which will be released in summer 2010, about his relationship with American president Bill Clinton.

The Queen is set during the tumultuous week after Princess Diana’s death. Princess Diana was a very popular figure, and ex-wife of Prince Charles. Her down-to-earth manner and relaxed attitude towards the strict royal traditions endeared her to the general population of England, despite the numerous “scandals” she was involved with. Naturally, the royal family was not so fond of her.

After her death the nation went into mourning, and there came an outpouring of grief that shocked the royals. Queen Elizabeth II and most of her family wanted to keep their grief private and not mention the situation in public, as Diana was at the time no longer part of the royal family. The queen believed this was what her country wanted. Tony Blair confronted her on this, advising her to address the people before their confidence in the monarchy dwindled to nothing.

The film sticks notoriously close to true events. Apparently inside sources were used to even get some specific conversations right. Naturally there are some things that had to be inferred or invented, but The Queen comes off as remarkably true due to its attention to detail. Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II is perhaps a bit too thin, but otherwise she (and the rest of the cast) are very close approximations of their real-life counterparts. Michael Sheen particularly stands out as the newly elected Tony Blair.

When presenting a film about a historical figure, especially when involved in such controversy, movies tend to either stand with the person or go against them. This movie does neither, it instead shows the queen as a person with difficult challenges to make who is perhaps a bit out of touch with her people. This was a good move, as both monarchists and anti-monarchists can watch the film and see in it what they will.

The Queen has a nice measured pace to it, moving forward steadily but not making too big a deal out of things. It lets the events of the story determine the speed and urgency of the movie, and thankfully does not try to pull us in with a false sense of danger or importance. British movies tend to avoid that trap fairly well, that is perhaps why I am so partial to them. There is also a nice healthy dose of British wit running through the movie, reminding us that a bit of sugar does indeed help the medicine go down.

OVERALL

The Queen is a very strong movie with excellent performances. Its tone is soft, yet mature and pressing, and it does a very good job of blending archival footage within the movie. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with this particular period of British history (late nineties), as we are shown everything we need to know. I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in this sort of thing.

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TRAILER

“The Queen” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 8, 2010 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

82 – The Great Gatsby (1974)

The Great Gatsby REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Jack Clayton

Cast – Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Sam Waterson, Scott Wilson

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The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is required reading in many schools, and has made its mark on many writers since its publication in 1925, despite its original unpopularity. It is now seen as a classic American novel.

I have found that adapting books into films is usually done for one of two reasons. One, that the book is popular and would make a large profit based on its popularity, or two, that the book is very good and would work well within the cinematic format. Unfortunately I think the motive in this case was the former, even though the book is certainly good enough for the latter.

The production in general is drab, uninteresting, and very much in the line of  TV movies. While the story is dealt with in a fairly efficient manner, it is told with such a lack of energy that it becomes boring.

The actors in almost every case are either bad or miscast. Robert Redford is terrible for the part  of the withdrawn and somewhat bitter Gatsby. It reminds me of the story (possibly true) of when Redford wanted the part in The Graduate that would eventually go to Dustin Hoffman. When he questioned why he didn’t get the part, the director asked him if he’d ever “struck out” with a girl. Redford asked “What do you mean?” The director said “Exactly.” The point being that Redford is too good-looking and too charismatic to play a loner whose girl wouldn’t wait for him when he went to war. He does his best, but essentially can’t get past his own style.

The only actors who get out of this unscathed are Sam Waterson and Scott Wilson. Sam plays the movie’s narrator, the man from whose eyes we see the story. Scott Wilson plays George Wilson, a simple man who owns a garage and is constantly put upon by the upper class folks. Both these actors are natural yet add a welcome sense of urgency to the story.

In the end the only thing that keeps the movie going is that it is based on such good source material. There a couple good shots that piqued my interest though. One (which is repeated several times) is a shot of Gatsby’s pool and house, featuring blue and white curtains waving idly by the topaz water and white marble columns. It is a wonderfully mood-setting shot. The other thing is “the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg”, a sign which looms over the road to New York. This famous image from the book is replicated perfectly here.

OVERALL

The cast and plodding pace of  The Great Gatsby is really what stops it from reaching its potential. The story is good, but isn’t allowed to soar. Robert Redford is miscast awfully, and Mia Farrow overacts as the ditsy Daisy. As an adaptation of a classic work of literature this movie falls well below what it could have been, but because of the good source material it manages to scrape by as a watchable movie.

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TRAILER

“The Great Gatsby” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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April 8, 2010 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Romance, Year - 1970-1979 | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment