I was only fourteen when Princess Diana died in Paris, France. Officially, the cause of death was a car accident but the paparazzi were the cause. I am an American citizen so I was not really in touch with the British monarchy. However, as Princess Diana rose to prominence, even us Americans started to take notice. From all appearances, she was a woman of the people and a huge celebrity. She did a lot for charity which won her all sorts of praise. She continued to spread goodwill even after she “escaped” the stuffy, old royals. In a world where we need there to be good guys and bad guys, Diana became the good guy and the royals the villains. When Diana died, the whole world mourned her and that is the starting point of this movie. The movie follows Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and the rest of the family as they deal with the death of a former princess. Additionally, newly elected prime minister Tony Blair tries to deal with the Queen and the public relations and logistics of the upcoming funeral. It is the story of old protocol conflicting with modernization. Also, it is a story about how one person can be seen in many different ways. Helen Mirren is excellent as Elizabeth II. She is really good at portraying the burden of a duty she believes was handed down by God. Dealing with Diana’s death is not only personal but it has to do with centuries of tradition. I cannot recommend this enough.
After watching The Queen and a short film on the abdication of Edward VIII, I became intensely interested in the Royal Family of England. The show covers the early life of Elizbeth II who was forced to take the throne when her father, George VI, died of cancer. Much like The Queen, it also follows in parallel the inner workings of the Prime Minister’s office especially as Churchill dealt with the new Queen. As the show begins, Churchill has just been elected as prime minister for the second time. George is riddled with cancer but nobody is aware of how bad it is. Elizabeth has just married Phillip who is eager to get back to serving as a naval officer while his wife is asked to take on more responsibilities for her sick father. The show is absolutely beautiful and the acting is great. I was absolutely surprised to see Matt Smith as Phillip and he has an interesting story of a man who must stand behind his wife in her time of need. John Lithgow plays an older Churchill, an old war hero who is still sharp but may be past his prime. Claire Foy is great as Elizabeth II as we watch how vulnerable she is in private and strong she is in public. It is an amazing show to watch paired with The Queen as it dovetails really nicely with that movie. A lot of what I said about the crown above goes double for this show. The weight of the crown is really a huge focus here. I recommend it either before or after watching The Queen.
The King’s Speech
It was only natural that I would be interested in watching a movie about Elizabeth II’s father. George VI had a very similar situation to his daughter. He never wanted to be King but his brother was a nazi sympathizer who was engaged to a nazi spy. The English government used the fear of public relations and the rules of the Church of England to make Edward VIII abdicate the throne. This was good for the country but George VI was put into a position he never wanted to be in. He was happy being a prince where he could be out of the public eye. One of his biggest problems was a speech impediment, a stammer that apparently hounded him all of his life. I can definitely understand some of this. While I never stammered, I did see a speech therapist at one point because I was so shy about speaking in public. The very first scene is George making an appearance at a public function and having to deliver a speech and the utter hopelessness on his face brings up similar memories in my own life. Even today I hate speaking in public. The movie stars Colin Firth as George VI who is excellent as a vulnerable man who is trying to be better not only for his family but for his country. He interacts with a speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush who is so entertaining to watch. The King’s wife Elizabeth (who will become Queen Mother) is played by Helena Bonham Carter who is refreshingly subtle compared to the work she usually does. Finally, King Edward VIII is played by Guy Pierce and he is such an asshole that you want to hate him immediately.
Music of the Week:
Hollywood Undead – Bullet
– This week’s theme is “British Monarchy in the 20th Century”
– I started watching the final season of Parks and Recreation
– I started Season 2 of Blue Bloods
– I am still watching The Librarians out of order
– I watched a whole lot of Youtube
– I just got back from the West Coast this morning
– Boy are my arms and my whole body tired from the red-eye flight