Entertainment :: Movies

The Queen’s Sister

by Phil Hall
Tuesday Jan 16, 2007
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To its credit, The Queen’s Sister does not pretend to be a meticulously researched biopic on the life of Princess Margaret. In the pre-credit sequence, it cheekily admits that some of the scenes depicted took place while some did not.

But even with the frank admission of detours into fancy, it is still difficult to appreciate this mean-spirited slam against the late royal. Simon Cellan Jones’ film, made for British TV and having a straight-to-DVD release on this side of the Atlantic, makes a mockery of Princess Margaret by turning her into a coarse, common, alcoholic nymphomaniac with nary a shred of decent behavior or intelligence. Unlike the woman described by Gore Vidal as "a woman far too intelligent for her station in life," this version of Princess Margaret is a stupid, selfish brat whose sole interest in self-indulgence and a seemingly gluttonous sexual appetite.

The film starts quickly in the midst of the scandal involving Princess Margaret with Group Captain Peter Townsend. That lasts a scant ten minutes, at which point the film only views the alleged private life of the princess: a whirl of cocktail parties and nightclubs where Her Royal Highness had a penchant for drinking too much and playing the role of song stylist.

Her affair with commoner photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones is depicted as a raw collision of oversexed creatures; their marriage, however, is seen in farcial terms with barely concealed adultery and broad screaming matches over royal protocol.

There is obviously something very wrong when the most sympathetic character is Prince Philip (played by David Threlfall with lockjaw and a layer of make-up more common for funeral homes than movies). Lucy Cohu’s Princess Margaret is a nasty parody of spoiled rich women as a whole - a special feature on the DVD release shows the real Princess Margaret in newsreels, who clearly conducted herself with far more grace and poise than the Neely O’Hara-knockoff of Cohu’s performance (the real princess was also considerably more beautiful and thinner than the actress assigned to slander her). Oddly, Toby Stephens’ Antony Armstrong-Jones is much sexier and far more intellectually aggressive than the real article (and the film gives the impression that he was the wronged party in the failed royal marriage, when in truth he contributed more than his fair share to its collapse).

As for Her Majesty, she never shows up in the film. Which is just as well, since one can hardly imagine what idiotic muck would be thrown on her. God Save the Queen...from this crap!

Newsreel on Princess Margaret’s early life; the feature "A Royal Scandal"

Phil Hall is the author of "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time


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