Thursday, May 6, 2021

When a queen becomes a diplomat

    It's cheap and probably lazy for a reviewer to call attention to a movie's title, but ...
    A movie titled Queen Marie of Romania doesn't automatically suggest a compelling hour and 50 minutes at the movies. Unfortunately, this Queen can be as prosaic as its title.
    Odd, too, because the story take place at a pivotal moment during the days following World War I. The leaders of the Western World have gathered in Paris for a peace conference at which many borders will be determined. They were, in effect, carving up the world.
    Director Alexis Sweet Cahill focuses on Romania's battle for recognition. The Romanians wanted approval to establish a unified country with borders that would include Transylvania and more. They wanted to rid themselves of what they viewed as the Hungarian occupation of part of their country.
    These are not topics with immediate urgency for most American audiences and Queen Marie is too mired in period-piece trappings to make them feel vivid. 
     Mixing stilted English, Romanian, and smatterings of German, the movie becomes a tribute to the determination of a single woman, Queen Marie of Romania, played here by Roxana Lupu.
     English-bred and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Marie was no pushover. When Romanian diplomats failed to persuade the assembled delegates to recognize a unified Romania, she traveled to Paris where she wowed the Parisian press with a mixture of charm, grit and guile.
    The Romanian royals provide a bit of family drama. The king (Daniel Pier) seems responsible but wimpy. Prince Carol II (Anghel Damian) angers his parents because he's dallying with a commoner. The lead Romanian diplomat (Adrian Titieni) fumes with frustration because no one at the Paris conference takes him seriously.
     Several historical figures round out the history lesson. Sporting a massive walrus mustache, Ronald Chenery portrays George Clemenceau, France's prime minister. Richard Elfyn plays Lloyd George, Britain's PM, and Patrick Drury appears as Woodrow Wilson. 
    The movie trots out these big-name historical characters mostly so that Queen Marie can stand up to them. By the end, she has put all of them in their places as she goes about serving her people, as she refers to her mission.
    Narrow and aristocratic, the movie lacks the sweep of history. At the time of the conference, large numbers of Romanians were starving and Hungarian forces were ravaging Bucharest. 
     Though referenced, the suffering of the Romanian people takes a backseat to Marie's proto-feminism and to the lavishly displayed Parisian and Romanian settings -- hotels and castles fit for ... well ... a queen.
     Oh well, a missed opportunity. As rudimentary as it is decorous. Queen Marie over-explains, under-dramatizes and generally fails to catch fire.

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