2006 made entertainment history as the year of The Queen, the name of Stephen Frears’ uppercrustly waggish movie and the subject of the HBO Elizabeth I directed by Tom Hooper, who’d later helm HBO’s John Adams and the movies The King’s Speech and Les Misérables. Given the excellence of the scripts—Peter Morgan’s chatter in The Queen has the sound of a real Tony Blair insider; Nigel Williams’ revealing concentration on Elizabeth I as an often silly romantic—chances are good the final products would be worthy of seeing no matter who played England’s two royal personages. (Then again, maybe not: Cate Blanchett fizzled out in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.) That Helen Mirren performed as each queen and won virtually every movie and television acting award including the Oscar and Emmy is historic. (And she found the time to bring the harrowing Prime Suspect series to an Emmy-winning conclusion too.) As Meryl Streep says without an ounce of actor’s malice, Mirren’s “the best” and there’s zilch doubt that these are fillet mignon performances. You feast on her and it isn’t just because you’re consuming her every word or action as actress, though that is certainly the case, it’s that you also carry within your own history book or media-fed baggage a myriad of impressions about those real people she’s only playing and very nearly come to believe she is those queens. Initially I thought of classifying The Queen and Elizabeth I in Favorites, because they are, but what’s undeniable is neither monarch could survive without the stoic foundation, without the ability to draw down the protective guard of reserved (and sometimes not-so-reserved) bitchery. As for Mirren, she is the bitch supreme of queens and the supreme queen of bitches. A spectacular achievement.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.