Our own Marie was not going to pass up the chance to see a film called Queen Marie – it has quite a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
When a film appears with such a regal title, it goes without saying that this reviewer bearing the same name is naturally keen to take a look.
Particularly when it transpires that the eponymous monarch is (or rather was) a real person, and the story told is based on true events which took place in 1919, in the aftermath of war in Europe.
The Marie in question (Roxana Lupu) is queen of Romania, a country splintered by treaties made under the pressure of German occupation at the end of World War I. Her husband King Ferdinand (Daniel Plier) is preoccupied with reuniting his country; her elder son Carol (Anghel Damian) is an angry and errant young man at odds with his family, causing them embarrassment and heartache which ill-befits the heir to the throne. And she needs to find purposeful occupations and marriage opportunities for two of her daughters, who are now of that age.
Meanwhile, in Paris, politicians from all over Europe are trying to tie up the loose ends of the war, but nobody is listening to the Romanian voice. Marie seizes the opportunity to represent her country on an international stage, and to charm the jowly and extravagantly mustachioed prime ministers and presidents into supporting her cause.
Queen Marie deals with a sticky time in world history when men have all the power and women are beautiful objects which are not to be taken too seriously. But the film also tries to emphasise that one should never underestimate a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, nor doubt that she is tough enough to deal with the men at the highest level.
The story of Queen Marie of Romania contains – on paper – much to interest a viewer interested in historical drama, but this iteration will more likely appeal to someone seeking a Downton Abbey-style fix. Serious political shenanigans are afoot and yet we can barely see what’s happening through the plethora of peonies and roses dotted on every available surface. The set florists must have had a field day – so too the costume department. The toast of Paris, Her Majesty is presented with an array of couture gowns at her disposal, and she makes sure that she wears every single one. To be fair, I would too; it is one of the plus points to watching.
The main weakness is, however, one which runs through the whole film and that is the stodgy and cliche-ridden script. No matter how much they try, the actors struggle to make the dialogue believable and natural, making the conversations sound stilted and the characters more like caricatures. It’s a shame that this clearly resourceful woman is framed disproportionately as a wife and mother and that we didn’t dig a little deeper into her regally limited activism.
It is, though, beautiful to look at, tells a little-known portion of history, and will easily fill a Sunday afternoon accompanied by tea and cake.