After Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, Keira Knightley continues her reign as the queen of the period film with this 18th-century costume drama. The corset-clad actress stars as Georgiana Spenser, the Duchess of Devonshire. With her marriage to the duke (Ralph Fiennes), Georgiana achieves an impressive level of fame as Britons follow both her clothing style and her political advice. But even celebrity and wealth can't act as a salve in her marriage to the boring, boorish duke. When he begins to flaunt his affairs, Georgiana is tempted to return to a teenage crush, Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper of The History Boys), to the anger of her husband and her mother (Charlotte Rampling, Swimming Pool).
There was an unprecedented outpouring of grief by the British public following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. After an austere response by the Royal Family to Diana’s death, Queen Elizabeth II attempts to reconnect with the nation. The Queen takes a look at an eventful period of British history. In 1997, the British monarchy was reeling from scandal and divorce. Prince Charles and Princess Diana had recently separated. In addition, Labour swept to power after 18 years of Tory rule, led by the charismatic Tony Blair. When Diana--known affectionately by the tabloids and the public as the People’s Princess--dies in a Paris tunnel while being chased by paparazzi, a shocked nation displays an unprecedented outpouring of grief and turns to its monarch for support. Instead, Queen Elizabeth II decides to stay in Balmoral Castle in order to protect her grandsons William and Harry from the display of grief. Unwilling to share the Windsors’ feelings about the death with the nation, the monarchy slides into increasing unpopularity. Following Labour’s overwhelming victory at the polls, newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair attempts to get the Queen to take the necessary measures to win back the monarchy’s popularity. Helen Mirren (Calendar Girls, Elizabeth I) gives an astonishing performance as the monarch. She injects a sense of vulnerability and complexity to a person who is very private about her personal life. Michael Sheen (Blood Diamond) also produces an excellent display as Tony Blair, having to use all the diplomacy he can muster. Stephen Frears’ (High Fidelity, Dirty Pretty Things) film is a superb reconstruction of what may have happened behind the scenes during a traumatic period.
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