The Queen

My week-long fling up in Northern Ontario has irrefutably demonstrated that I’m getting too old for this shit. I got back more than two weeks ago–yet not only am I still exhausted, I’m also sick. The other night, for no apparent reason, I threw up (my first time since the Half Nelson decable), and after forcing myself to go to work on Friday I practically collapsed when I got home. Last night I slept for ten-and-a-half uninterrupted hours; I just don’t do that anymore, which offers further proof that I just can’t bring it like I used to. I shudder to think what the next Pearl Jam tour will do to me.

Anyway: the stomach flu I thought was imminent didn’t quite hit me, but I’d still planned on spending this evening watching Hockey Night in Canada and getting rid of whatever it is I’ve got. But then Bri talked me into seeing the Borat movie, so I downed a couple Advils, pulled on a hoodie and drove to Eglinton Town Centre. I figured I could survive a movie–and if I left to go puke, at least it wouldn’t be the first time. But when we got there half-an-hour before showtime, it was already sold out (I’ll be stunned if this movie doesn’t break some kind of opening weekend record, by the way). We thought about going home–then figured we’d gotten this far, and so we went and saw The Queen instead. For some reason I was reluctant to see it, despite hearing good things. But man, am I ever glad I went: at the risk of sounding, well, like myself, The Queen is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s an expert political thriller–imagine that–focussed on the crucial week in 1997 when Princess Di was killed in Paris. On one hand we’ve got Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren), the staunch traditionalist who refuses to acknowledge Diana’s passing; on the other we’ve got newly-elected Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), who’s got his pulse on the national mood and concludes, correctly, that the Queen’s refusal to broker the public grief could have disasterous consequences not just for himself, but for the monarchy’s very survival.

It’s a basic set-up–but watching director Stephen Frears pull it off is spellbinding. He’s aided by a pair of titanic performances from Mirren and Sheen (whose physical resemblance to Tony Blair goes beyond being merely “uncanny” and becomes, well, “creepy”), while Peter Morgan’s screenplay subtly exposes the developing tension between old and new Britain. The moment where the two come together–when the Queen returns to Buckingham Palace for the first time following Diana’s death–is spellbinding; it’s also the exact moment where Bri Johnson burst into tears.

In addition, we were treated to even more drama courtesy a couple audience members. During the denouement–a vital speech from Mirren on the trials and tribulations of monarchic rule–a woman in the theatre exclaimed, out of nowhere, “You spilled your drink on my purse.” And then, as the rest of us either tried our best to ignore her (difficult) or half-turned in astonishment, she berated the guy sitting next to her. At full volume. For the next two minutes. I’ve gotten used to talking in front of large audiences, and was about to let go with an, “Excuse me, but could you hold that thought for five minutes?” when the guy she’d been yelling at got up and ran quickly out of the theatre. Thirty seconds later she followed him; I have no idea what happened next. It was honestly an incredible moment. Anyway: point being, The Queen is a masterpiece (and if you don’t believe me–which by now you should–then check out the overall rating over at Rotten Tomatoes), and you should go see it. And if you’re twenty-six years old and you’re travelling across Ontario speaking to elementary school children, you need to take better care of your body when you’re on the road. Remind me in January, will you?

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