There’s something perverse—delightfully perverse—about a film in which the suspense is in whether a woman can bring herself to make a grudging statement of grief, and when she acquiesces, it’s not exactly a stand-up-and-cheer kind of climax. But it’s a momentous one, because it marks, for Queen Elizabeth II, the passing of a more dignified, more orderly world. It’s akin to Chekhov’s idle rich having to sell off their cherry orchard to commoners, except the story has been updated: The catastrophe is a public-relations one, and what Elizabeth has to sell is her image. She has it coming, though: She was frightful to poor, unhinged Diana, the queen of modernity, of celebrity culture. The Queen is the most reverent irreverent comedy imaginable. Or maybe it’s the most irreverent reverent comedy. Either way, it’s a small masterpiece.
Tradition and informality collide — and mutually benefit — in the deliciously written and expertly played “The Queen.” Dramatized version of the week following the death of Princess Di, from the different vantage points of the British royal family and newly elected Prime Minis-ter Tony Blair, cheekily mixes on-the-nail perfs and docu footage into a witty and finally moving re-creation of a period that challenged both royals and pols. Toplined by a socko per-formance from Helen Mirren, the small, upscale pic should prove a modest theatrical suc-cess on the back of heavy promo and positive crix, with lotsa ancillary mileage.
The Queen has a 100% Cream of the Crop rating on rottentomatoes.com.