Thank goodness for the Internet Movie Database entry on Helen Mirren. It told me that she is of Russian ancestry--her given name is Elena Lydia Mironoff, her grandfather was a Tsarist diplomat who stayed in Britain after the Russian Revolution of 1917, her great-great-great-great grandfather was Field Marshal Kamensky, a hero of the war of 1812. So, it turns out that Stephen Frears has provided a very Russian--which is to say long-suffering and deeply soulful--portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in his new film, The Queen.
What I didn't know...was that the film is about a love triangle--between Tony Blair, Princess Di, and the Queen. In the end, Her Majesty sways young Tony's affections, and he seems to forget the "People's Princess" in favor of the old-fashioned stiff-upper-lip Queen Ellizabeth. Michael Sheen's portrayal of the dynamic British prime minister is uncanny. He doesn't look like him--but he acts like him. "That Cheshire cat grin," says the Queen. And Sheen has it.
The whole cast is so good, it is almost like watching Anglophile pornography. Helen McCrory is a dead ringer for Cherie Blair. James Cromwell is the bossy and tyrannical Prince Philip. Every scene is carefully composed and artistically staged. The Queen'ss corgis are there. The Queen's butler informs us that one calls her "Ma'am like Ham, not Ma'am like Farm." There is a precedent for everything royal, in a family that have been around for a thousand years. Even the stag who meets the Queen at Balmoral is out of Sir Edwin Henry Landseer's "Monarch of the Glen."
If you liked Mobil Masterpiece Theatre, you'll love Helen Mirren as "The Queen."