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My long journey through the British monarchy that began three years ago with The Hollow Crown has finally reached an end. Here are the films that follow the crown up to modern day.
Amazing Grace (2006) ****
Thoughtful drama about the prolonged effort to end the slave trade in England, with a standout performance by Rufus Sewell. Toby Jones plays George IV before he was king, and he's one of the baddies. Would pair well with Amistad.
The Young Victoria (2009) ***
Teenage Queen Victoria falls in love with her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. It's an opulent romance but it's all pretty low stakes. Young Emily Blunt is delightful though. If anything, it adds weight to Mrs. Brown and gives you an idea of who Prince Albert was.
Mrs. Brown (1997) ****
After years of mourning the death of Prince Albert and hiding herself away from politics, a bold Scotsman thaws Queen Victoria's heart and brings her out of her shell. Another Victorian romance, but with bigger stakes, better performances, and a bleaker, more down-to-earth treatment. A great follow-up to The Young Victoria even though this was made first.
Victoria and Abdul (2017) ****
I saw this three years ago, and this was my review...
Another widely panned film that I really enjoyed because of its remarkable story and Judi Dench's excellent performance. The movie struggles to contain a huge time period, so what takes place over 15 years feels more like an awkward single year, but it's a nice blend of comedy, pomp, and drama. It seems to be fairly accurate too, based on Abdul's recently unearthed diary, so that's a plus.
Mrs. Parkington (1944) **
Two tales crammed together: One about a family waiting for the matriarch to die so they can claim their inheritance, and the other about the matriarch's life with a domineering, unlikable husband. This is one of many Greer Garson/Walter Pidgeon collaborations, but it's hard to like because Pidgeon's character is a manly, rich asshole who treats Garson like... well, like men treated women in the 19th century I guess - as property. It reminded me of Sea of Grass, where Spencer Tracy played an equally unattractive love interest. The 1940s loved their ugly family dynasties. The inheritance story is more interesting and could have worked as a film by itself (shades of Little Foxes), but it primarily serves to bookend the flashbacks. Garson got an Oscar nomination, presumably for wearing old age makeup. Prince Edward appears in only one sequence, but he's by far the most likable and fun character in the story.
Mayerling (1968) **
Austrian Archduke Omar Sharif falls in love with Catherine Deneuve, but politics and his domineering father conspire to keep them apart. If this had a more visionary director it could have been a memorable film, but Terence Young is too reserved and just seems to be copying better movies (Doctor Zhivago), so in an effort to make something respectable, he ends up making it completely forgettable. Prince Edward has a major supporting role as the Archduke's friend and confidant.
Young Winston (1972) **
Richard Attenborough's creaky prestige biopic full of big name cameos about Churchill's adventurous youth. It has a pretty good train attack in the middle but is otherwise an unremarkable tribute to a national hero.
The King's Speech (2010) *****
I saw this in 2016, and this was my surprisingly brief review...
A brilliant idea for a movie, well-crafted with superb performances. The only sore spot is Timothy Spall's horribly cartoonish Winston Churchill.
The Crown (2016-2023) *****
Is this the whole reason I embarked on this journey? While everyone was raving about The Crown, I was doing my homework churning through history trying to figure out why the crown matters, and it all culminated in this lavish, intelligent, and engaging mini-series about Elizabeth II. Knowing the background was beneficial early in the series, at least from Queen Victoria on. My elementary understanding of British history helped with some references, and I appreciated the series considerably more than I would have otherwise. The cast changes are jarring as it alters the character's personalities, but each cast finds solid footing and the series has a strong through-line even when it throws in some great stand-alone episodes. I've heard complaints that it's too much of a soap opera in the final seasons. I guess I don't watch enough soap operas to know, but it certainly becomes less focused on world events and a lot more focused on romance and relationships and how impossible that is when you're royalty. Each new love interest is walking into a trap. If I had a complaint, it's that it becomes less about Elizabeth as Princess Diana dominates all the attention, but Elizabeth Debicki is absolutely captivating in that challenging role. Perhaps it is a soap opera, or perhaps it is a reflection of how irrelevant the royal family had become to world events? Even after three years of watching movies about the British monarchy, I'm still in favor of seeing the monarchy go away, even if it makes for some great (and not so great) entertainment - from The Hollow Crown to The Crown and everything in between.
I've already gone through all the Richard III films, but they made this since then...
The Lost King (2022) ***
The true story of how Richard III's grave was found in a carpark, with a light dramatic script by Steve Coogan that serves more as character study than historical procedural, and a solid performance by Sally Hawkins. I'm not sure how interesting it would be to anyone that's not into the historical aspect though.  Apparently a professor is suing the filmmakers for making him look bad.

The Crown

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