Another Poor Little Rich Girl

I checked out The Queen the other night after hearing that it does much better than Marie Antoinette at depicting an isolated, oblivious monarch upon whom the real world intrudes. And it’s true, it gets right what Sofia got wrong. It intersperses scenes of her isolated existence in London and on the breathtakingly gorgeous grounds of Balmoral Castle with crowd scenes of the people voicing their growing displeasure. We get to see what all the fuss is about, and at the same time we see how isolated and out of touch the queen is. This is where Sofia fails. We never get to see the crowd or have any idea of what they are so angry about. And I completely understand that that is her intent, to show how isolated she was, but just because the character is isolated and oblivious does not mean the film should be. That is a mistake. To show none of it whatsoever, and to stop the film before we see any of her hardship, means the film sides fully with the Queen and makes the starving peasants’ anger out to be much ado about nothing. You end up with a film that says nothing more than “It’s great fun to be a rich, beautiful teenager!”

The Queen, however, is much more satisfying because we get plenty of evidence that what she is doing is wrong. And we watch her eventually realize this. And the film still remains a compassionate portrayal of an oblivious character who in some ways remains oblivious to the end. She ultimately gives in and acknowledges the real world, but also says in the end “I don’t think I will ever understand what happened this week.” And that’s fine. We don’t hate her for that, we understand.

But while I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen, it’s no work of art. It does not aspire to art. It’s just a very good story, a well-written and wonderfully acted drama. Sofia’s film, I must admit, aspires to art. And for that reason I can’t completely dismiss her. She hasn’t got it quite right in this film, but I do expect that with age and experience she may produce something brilliant one day. Once she acknowledges the real world.

(Note that the links above for each film show approval ratings–98% for The Queen, clearly a crowd- (plebe-?) pleaser, and 52% for the highly polarizing Marie Antoinette. An acquired taste, obviously, like caviar.)

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