Main Features No 69
Look Who’s Getting the Royal Treatment.
Claire Foy dons the Crown (again) as Elizabeth II, with Who as Prince Philip…
The Crown | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix, Netflix US & Canada, http://www.youtube.com
So Darlin’ Husband and I were in the mood for an easily watchable series to watch using a certain media streaming service. Advice from a mutual good friend and fellow British expat came from America suggesting watching the first series of The Crown (2016). This first series tells the story of the current Queen Elizabeth II – of Great Britain – from her marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh through to the resignation of Winston Churchill. It also ends with the break-up of her sister Margaret’s then scandalous relationship with Peter Townsend. As a child, believing Peter Townsend a member of The Who, confusing him with Peter Townshend. And not the British aviator who had a more acceptable claim to fame afterwards of being an adviser in the Michael Caine film Battle of Britain (1969).
Our tale begins with the Princess Elizabeth marrying Prince Philip. Philip marrying the heir to the throne, has to give up his titles and his Navy work role. As George VI becomes extremely unwell, Churchill is re-elected. During the ten episodes we also meet Edward and Wallis Simpson, and learn more about him as a person and as the young Queen’s confidante. His love for his wife shines through all his particular scenes, as does his apparent bitterness at this family and country for having to give up his throne. We also learn more about the Queen Mother, George VI and Princess Margaret with scenes of their private and public lives.
There’s an amazing ensemble of British and American talent in the casting of this movie so will let you spot most of them for yourself. However there are 4 or 5 of the cast that I want to give particular praise. George VI is played by Jared Harris. I last saw him in Mad Men and the Sherlock Holmes film. But here he’s a lovely dad and King, as he comes over as a gentle loving husband and father. He plays George VI much less pompously than Colin Firth did in The King’s Speech (2010) playing him as a quiet man who was enjoying the simple life with his family, before his brother’s abdication and his thrust into the unwanted limelight as King. Princess and later Queen Elizabeth, herself is played to regal perfection. This by an actress who played another Queen, Anne Boleyn in Wolfe Hall (2015), Claire Foy. She’s so fantastic in playing this character – as she was with Boleyn – that you almost feel you should curtsy on meeting the actress. She is terribly demure, quietly assertive and well-meaning in the role. So you can almost feel her pain as the Queen she has to decide on the correct protocol to use to avoid situations developing and trying to balance her duties over supporting her family’s requests.
But special praise must go to the more surprising albeit fantastic of the casting of John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. Lithgow gets all the praise as he is a living and breathing Churchill, easily representing this Prime Minister in his nuances, behaviours and that iconic voice. And it is reported Lithgow carried these out in his audition for the role winning the role easily over the competition. Harriet Walters plays Churchill’s wife Clementine, as a doting, caring supporter for her at times cantankerous husband. Another surprising but shockingly good casting is that of the Duke of Edinburgh who is played with impish charm by
Dr Who Matt Smith. Which was difficult to accept initially, admittedly as you did expect the Tardis to materialise during specific important scenes. However Smith’s Duke of Edinburgh is portrayed here a family man, wanting the best for his wife and family but trying to find a role for himself other than the Queen’s husband. Smith’s enthusiasm and support of his character despite his apparent foibles is a joy to watch. Along with Vanessa Kirby playing Margaret, their characters more human approach to their duties was refreshing to see, showing a new dimension to the Royal way of being.
One scene however did jar, although it reportedly happened which was shown with Princess Margaret losing all her poise and grace at a State convention covering for the Queen where Kirby as Margaret gave a Bridget Jones type speech to the crowd of dignitaries. As Renee Zellweger did – less successfully – in her first movie outing as Bridget Jones. The other scenes however with Margaret were more heartbreaking with you knowing the true story between her and Townsend, you still hoped for a happier ending to their story. Kirby played Princess Margaret as a woman first, and then a Princess and it will be interesting to see her develop in the next series without Townsend. The rest of the cast as just as fantastic, and I can’t put fault to anyone’s performance.
The costumes are to die for, the scenes beautifully recreated and the script well written. Memorable costumes such as the Queen’s Wedding dress were recreated in detail, and despite viewed for only a short time made more impact with realistic scenes between characters. I particularly liked the contrast between the sisters befitting their roles, with the queen wearing more demure outfits compared to her sisters clothing off the shoulder and strikingly more fashionable. Flashbacks were used effectively and montages minimally, which worked well in reinforcing the story line. Using some scenes with old footage along with new recorded material together worked well, making you feel more involved in the series, rather than the film/documentary feeling you might have experienced in other royal biopics. Such as footage of the Royal Wedding, where in cutting from footage to the actors the looks given between the groom and the princess bride gave a more human, less Royal perceptive of the day.
The story although primarily concentrating on Elizabeth II, also tells of other members of the family such as Edward and Wallis Simpson, George VII, The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. It also considers the political and social subtext, such as Churchill and the great smog of London along with prominent names of the day such as Peter Townsend. All their private and public lives are portrayed, warts and all, giving more understanding to characters and their actions and their motives. I read this is the first of six series, and look forward to the remaining ones. I hope it will be just as impressive and interesting as this first series as so far it seems The Crown is certainly on the Royal road to success.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Bonus Trailer: Yes