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Wednesday, November 08, 2006
No better quill than an irreverent one

What do you get when you converge eloquence with irreverence? You get an entertaining read. Of all the reviews on The Queen, be sure to read A Royal Pain:
Decked out in oddly fashion-free hats and frocks, Helen Mirren offers an uncannily convincing portrayal of Elizabeth as a creature from another planet who nonetheless grieves and suffers like an earthling. The pain that flickers across her face when Prince Charles praises the physical affection his late wife showed the two little princes is even more poignant for being so obviously well deserved. So is her anguish at having to publicly humiliate herself in order to shore up the idea of the monarchy, and in her view the soul of the nation, against the assault of headlines screaming “Show Us You Care!” As the queen finishes delivering her funeral address, she wears the dazzled look of a martyr.

Earlier, when she wanders the spectacular royal estate at Balmoral, her eyes well up at the sight of a lordly stag. Her tears are not for Diana (that self-dramatizing blabbermouth) but for her own poor self, the embattled relic of a dying breed. Moreover, we feel her pain, because each of us can count on being confronted with our irrelevance sooner or later, even if we don’t have 40,000 acres in Scotland in which to feel sorry for ourselves.

While The Queen depicts the royal family as clueless troglodytes, it takes an equally cool view of populist politics as embodied in the moistly ambitious Blair (played with just the right dewy eagerness by Michael Sheen). the Queen’s stiff-necked belief in her own sanctity may be insane, but it’s based on some notion of principle, however retrograde. The same can hardly be said for Blair’s political arse-creeping of the Diana cult.

Say what you will about Elizabeth, but in The Queen she at least understands noblesse oblige—that the trappings of royalty carry some responsibility to the people whose necks you’re standing on. A dinosaur Elizabeth may be, but she recognizes that her servants and subjects are not the only ones with duties to perform.

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