“The Queen,” for which Helen Mirren received last week's Academy Award for Best Actress, will be screened March 10-13 at the Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St. in Geneva.
Directed by Stephen Frears, this film has been described as “a subtle, often very funny, ultimately touching tragedy of royal manners and meaning” and “a remarkable chamber drama set on a national stage.”
This film lets the audience peep behind the closed doors of Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle as the royal family copes with the aftermath of the death of Lady Diana Spencer — the national paroxysm of mourning, the mounting outrage over Queen Elizabeth's refusal to make official gestures of grief.
By limiting the action to one week in early September 1997, during which the Windsors and their subjects sharply diverged. It covers the time just after the car accident that took Diana's life, when Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) and young princes William and Harry were vacationing at their Scottish retreat in Balmoral.
To the populace, Diana was “the people's princess,” hounded to her death by in-laws, the media, and the public; their self-chastising guilt just whips the flames higher.
To the queen, on the other hand, Diana was a shameless ex-daughter-in-law who wasn't shy about her celebrity. Of course there shouldn't be a state funeral, Elizabeth maintains, since the divorced Diana was no longer a member of the royal family.
The drama of the film lies in how the queen comes to understand this error in judgment and how it rattles her as a human being.
As Mirren inhabits the title, Elizabeth believes she is the national psychology — the soul of her country as well as its face. From the way she holds her pursed mouth to the acerbic asides that emerge from it, she reveals the monarch's rigid adherence to ritual and reserve. A lesser actress might have pulled off the ceremonial persona, but to portray the queen as multidimensional and human, as Mirren does, projecting steely determination along with vulnerability and confusion, is a masterful accomplishment.
James Cromwell, as the stuffy Prince Philip, is impressive in his less showy role.
“The Queen” is a fascinating character study and a brilliantly crafted drama. It has some of the wittiest writing in recent memory and spot-on performances. Although this is no documentary, we feel we are getting a glimpse of what went on behind the scenes nearly a decade ago.
Screenings will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 10 through Tuesday the 13th except at 2 p.m. on Sunday the 11th. This film is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1:43. Tickets are $5 general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens and are available at the door.