Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Crown -- A Review

Kočka watching The Crown

My cat Kočka paid little or no attention to the second season of the Netflix Original series The Crown. In fact, he only watched a small portion of one episode. In this episode a large contingent of soldiers accompanied by bagpipes marches ahead of the queen as she proceeds to Balmoral, her castle in Scotland. Kočka has a thing for bagpipes. They will draw him from wherever he is in the house. He also loves Celtic Woman. Perhaps he was a Celt in one of his previous lives.

The Crown created and written by Peter Morgan and produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix, is a biographical drama about Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. (Please note: drama not documentary.)

Claire Foy plays Elizabeth, for which she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Matt Smith plays Philip. He is probably more famous for being the eleventh Doctor in the long-running BBC series Doctor Who. (My daughter's favorite Doctor!)

The first season was about Queen Elizabeth's life beginning with her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947 and running through 1955. The second season begins in 1956 with England's problems in Egypt and runs through 1964.

I watched that first season and enjoyed it thoroughly. So much so, in fact, that I looked forward to the second season with great anticipation. It filled Downton Abbey's place in my television viewing life quite nicely. If you pay attention, you'll see several actors from Downton.

Both seasons of The Crown are filled with opulent homes and furnishings and, what to me were unusual and on occasion mean-spirited, formalities that the Royals had to live with.

I probably know more about Elizabethan English history than I do about modern British history. I may have been alive during Elizabeth II's reign so far, but I've been much more vested in American goings-on than in Britain's. So I knew little of Britain's colonial activities in the Middle East.

The second season covers times that you'd think I'd remember, but I guess I wasn't paying attention.

What I know of British activities in India and Israel/Palestine during the late 40s is more than they discussed in the series at all. I suppose because the series actually focuses on Elizabeth's own activities and those political crises were in her father's time rather than hers.

It's interesting to me to realize that the woman I always thought of as 'grandmotherly' and 'dowdy' with her purses and hats that looked like a hydrangea on her head wasn't always all that old. Of course in the 60s when I was paying attention to the Brits, it was the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Twiggy. Politics and royalty figured not at all.

And I don't remember the Kennedys going to England. That must have been during his "ich bin ein berliner" visit to Germany.

In the scene when the Kennedys are first introduced to the queen, one thing especially caught my attention. Someone in the scene said sotto voce as though shocked "she didn't curtsy." That struck me as particularly odd. Why would they expect a woman who was not a subject of the queen to curtsy?

And I certainly don't remember the Kennedys having the kind of relationship with each other that this series portrays. No spoilers here. You'll have to watch for yourself. But the portrayal of Elizabeth's reaction to President Kennedy's murder, brought tears to my eyes. I'd never before even considered how people outside the U.S. reacted to that horrific event.

The writing and acting throughout both seasons is excellent. And the directing ... I was especially taken with the use of silences in the dialogue.

I don't know how historically accurate the series is. I do think it would be interesting to know what the British Royals think of it. Some of them don't get the rosiest of treatments.

The thing for me is that The Crown is a good story, well told. And if it's not exactly all true, that's okay. I certainly won't hold any of the real people to the historical fiction I enjoyed binge-watching.

And by-the-bye the video of the making of a crown during the opening titles is fascinating.