I saw The Queen today--a movie I wasn't sure I wanted to see. Even after I read the reviews, even after three friends told me it was a good movie, I still wasn't sure this was my kind of movie. And, if it weren't for the spectacular performances by Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen, I would be right.
There are two moments in The Queen that make this film worth seeing. The first is Tony Blair's outburst to his staff as HM Queen Elizabeth gives her first public speech about Princess Di's death. Michael Sheen throws all of his emotional gusto into this short speech without being over the top and without showing off his acting chops. It's a moment that's been building up for a good bit of the second act, and I, for one, was happy to see the tension pay off in probably the only true emotional outburst in the entire film.
The second is the one moment that emotionally affected me. If you don't know it already, I'm a movie cry baby. I get caught up in a good movie, and I can't help but get very attached to stories and characters. In this scene, the queen approaches a little girl holding a bouquet outside Buckingham Palace. The small interchange that this little girl and this legendary woman have is exquisite. A good actor can put everything in his or her face, and Helen Mirren is most definitely a good actor. The look on her face--the sadness, the joy, the relief--brought a tear to my eye, and that is when I truly understood why she's been so lauded for this role.
The Queen is quiet. It's a beautifully quiet film about a sensational moment in modern history. The characters in this film are not particularly driven by their inner-most feelings. So, if you're expecting some emotional roller coaster that digs deep into the secret life of the monarchy, go watch Elizabeth. If you want to see a spectuacular showcase of subtle acting talent, see this movie, and cheer for Helen Mirren when she wins the Oscar for this performance.