By Ken Tucker
Updated April 22, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Laurie Sparham
  • Movie

It’s a relief to hear director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan, during their commentary for The Queen, talk about the movie in a breezy, pleasantly jaded manner — for example, describing a scene in which Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II grips a phone with her little finger held just so as ”impeccable pinkie acting.” Their comments take out some of the hot air that inevitably inflates any Oscar-winning British film about a serious subject.

Like the HBO project Elizabeth I, Mirren’s other recent award-winning vehicle, The Queen is really just a well-done TV-movie-level biopic. We’re offered the comfort of a familiar story (the varying reactions to Princess Diana’s death by the Royal Family and the Tony Blair government), some striking images — such as the Queen encountering a regal stag — and a few insidery details (Frears notes that a moment when Mirren’s Queen meticulously arranges the pens on her desk came from the actress — she had heard that Her Majesty has an OCD-like compulsion to do so).

The DVD features a standard making-of documentary and a breathless second commentary by ”historical consultant” Robert Lacey, but Frears and Morgan’s astringent track is the one to listen to. After the memorable moment when a little girl outside Buckingham Palace hands the Queen flowers while grown women curtsy and simper, Morgan comments that a life spent enduring such behavior must ”make you want to dive into a bottle of vodka.”

The Queen

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 104 minutes
  • Stephen Frears