The Queen's Sister (TV Movie 2005) Poster

(2005 TV Movie)

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7/10
Uneven in tone, but Lucy Cohu does a great job
paul2001sw-123 April 2006
Princess Margaret, the Queen's once beautiful sister, is today best remembered for her infamous rudeness, dissolute lifestyle, and premature infirmity. But it is possible to feel sorry for her, and to see as as spoilt by a combination of the absence of a role, and the first intrusions of our evolving celebrity culture. The 'Queen's Sister' is a rather peculiar rendering of her story: some of the time, it appears to be a sympathetic account of the (partly self-inflicted) awfulness of her life, but it intermittently descends into raucous satire with relatively little care for historical truth (for example, if you were to take it literally, you'd conclude the Robin Douglas-Home was Harold Wilson's son in law!). It's saved by a superb performance from Lucy Cohu as the Princess, aided by some excellent make-up work: she's physically convincing throughout, even though her character ages by over twenty years during the span of the drama (though the scenes where she sings never seem real). Interestingly, the Queen makes not a single appearance, though it's unclear whether this is a reflection of the truth, an unwillingness to directly attack the monarch, or simply a wicked delight in the idea that she only spoke to her sister through her husband, who is played by David Threllfall (clearly taking a few steps up in the world from playing Frank Gallacher!). In fact, Threlfall's performance as Philip reminds one less of the real Prince, but more of Rory Bremner impersonating his son. Overall, this is a curate's egg of a film, but Cohu makes it worth watching.
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7/10
Sprited performance, but a sad tale
Philby-319 November 2006
This show advises us at the outset –"some of the following is true, some is not". So we have been warned. Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister, kept the voracious British tabloids fed for many years. A high spirited personality, she found life as a minor royal boring and frustrating and deep down she probably agreed with her stern critic, Labour MP Willie Hamilton, seen here as a kind of Greek chorus. Her early love for an older divorced man war hero Peter Townsend was smothered by the royal establishment (personified here, in an unlikely fashion, by Prince Philip – neither the Queen nor her mother appear). She preferred jazz singing and nightclubs to opening schools and visiting the sick and her marriage in 1960 to the society photographer Tony Armstrong Jones was initially a happy one, but as much as she liked their semi-bohemian lifestyle Margaret never forgot she was royal. Although no saint himself, Tony eventually walked out when she was photographed in the arms of society hippie and landscape gardener Roddy Llewellyn, who was 20 years younger than Margaret.

There real strength of this production is Lucy Cohu's performance as Margaret. Not only does she look the part, she somehow conveys the strange mixture of immature, impulsive brat and dignified personage that Margaret seems to have been. She is not only believable but she evokes our sympathy, much as Princess Diana did later in the century. Margaret however was too abrasive to ever become really popular with the British public, despite royal household efforts to polish her image. In a classic instance, royal minders go round the audience at the theatre to make sure Margaret gets a round of applause when she enters the Royal Box. The audience does not seem too keen since she's kept them waiting for half an hour, but the applause is forthcoming.

Given Lucy Cohu's stellar performance, the question of what is fact and what is fiction doesn't matter much, but the affair with Roddy, shown here as a brief dalliance, actually went on for 8 years, and only ended when Roddy found someone else to marry. The divorce from Tony is shown having occurred years earlier than it actually did (1978). Apart from a shot on the beach at Mustique, her Caribbean hideaway, a veil is drawn over Margaret's later years, the last few of which were truly wretched after a series of strokes confined her to a wheelchair, As mentioned, Prince Philip carries the flag for the royal establishment. As impersonated by David Threfal, he is an almost creepy character, quite unlike Philip's blunt, bumbling but forthright public persona. He is affable enough, but strangely condescending, as if he is real royalty and she is the interloper. It has been suggested that Threfal had Charles rather than Philip in mind, which if this is fiction is fair enough, but rather confusing if we are sticking to history.

It's a sad little story but Lucy Cohu makes it interesting. Toby Stephens does a believable and likable Tony but most of the other characters have little to do. One can see why the producers decided not to bring in the Queen and the Queen Mum, but leaving them diminishes the portrait of Margaret, whatever the state of their relationships. It is possible to portray the Queen in an interesting and non-offensive manner, as Alan Bennett did via Prunella Scales in "A Question of Attribution", where she is seem in conversation with the keeper of her pictures and former soviet agent Anthony Blunt (superbly played by James Fox). Anyway, this is not bad television, and I predict it will do well in the US where there is an insatiable demand for royal fairy tales.
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10/10
A Television Landmark
bradford_may4 January 2006
It is easy to see what Brian Appleyard from the Sunday Times meant when he wrote that The Queen's Sister is a Television Landmark. As he and other serious critics have noted, the raw material is not churned into a slavish biopic in which everyone speaks in newspaper headlines, but distilled into what Appleyard called a 'potent modern myth'. The filmmakers respected Margaret's story enough to grapple with its most essential values rather than grinding through a list of surface details (though details too appear expertly rendered), creating a powerful image of a woman trying to find her soul among the glittering objects of post-imperial Britain. The piece delivers a series of sharp and often funny scenes, showing the princess as a talented woman with too little to occupy her active mind, and deepens as Margaret loses her grip on a world that has only caused her pain. It is difficult to imagine a movie that would better, or more movingly, illustrate the predicament of modern royals. Roman Holiday was based loosely on the conflicts of Princess Margaret. The Queen's Sister is the first film in many years to further the discussion.
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1/10
Another disgusting film of the modern era
climbingivy27 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"The Queen's Sister" was another disgusting film that should not have been made.The actress who played Princess Margaret did a good job considering that the whole production was just another excuse to show naked bodies and perversion.I do not know what Princess Margaret was really like behind closed doors,but to be honest,I really do not want to know.Leave it to our modern day film makers to show Princess Margaret in a disgusting trashy light.I think the film is a sad portrayal and I feel bad for Princess Margaret even though she is not with us on this earth anymore.Why couldn't the film show how much she was capable of love and good things?The one portrayal that I think was accurate was the portrayal of Prince Phillip.This picture should be in the garbage.
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7/10
A tragic life
JRmf19 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This biopic of Princess Margaret was a revelation to me - the Queen's sister was really such a train-wreck?. The disclaimer at the start, Some of this movie is based on fact ... and some isn't, urged caution, indicating a quick squiz of her Wikipedia entry. It then appeared that much of what was depicted in the film was based on fact. Her willingness to jump into bed with any man who took her fancy (or if she simply felt like it) did surprise.

I found Margaret's spontaneity and gusto for life early in the film very appealing. Here was someone who was no cardboard cutout, despite her royal heritage. So I was rather dismayed to see how ingrained was her sense of the royal "we" - "they" (meaning the common people) must behave toward "us" in no uncertain deferential manner.

No need to work (addiction to the royal purse), lack of a purpose outside of self-indulgence, alcohol&smoking took their toll on this potentially magnificent person (her later life was marred by illness and disability and she died before her time at 72). Over the film's two decades she ages very visibly.

I left the film with an overwhelming sense of sadness that a life so full of promise should end in such emptiness and tragedy.
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7/10
Boho-aristo clash
Goingbegging24 November 2013
This is the story of a princess who could not reconcile her royal status with her bohemian tendencies, resulting in a split personality that she never managed to shake off.

We meet her at twenty-one, receiving the news that she can't marry the divorcée she loves without forfeiting her privileges, and pressure comes down from high places to stay in the job. She seems to realise that she will never find happiness (and never does), so she might as well compensate with some high living.

This becomes the theme of the film, aptly introduced with a throaty chorus of 'That Old Time Religion', and if the partying seems too giddy and hysterical, it is no more so than the real thing was.

Lucy Cohu is triumphant in the title-role, having to age twenty years in the course of the story, so perhaps we can forgive her for not carrying full conviction at the most youthful stage. Best of all is the way she captures the petulance and sheer wilful mischief of the princess, who turns out to be hard work indeed for those she chooses to favour. Intriguingly, just once, she slips into a Northern accent, with her pronunciation of the word 'subject', while the person who ought to be talking Yorkshire, anti-royal MP Willie Hamilton, is mistakenly cast as a Scot.

We're warned that some incidents are not historical. The rumour of a lesbian affair sounds made up, though she would have loved the shock-value. Any idea of Prince Philip giving helpful advice to her new husband Tony Armstrong-Jones is right out: some say she chose Tony because he was the opposite of Philip, who simply couldn't stand the man. And when Tony is showing her round London's backstreets for the first time, the pub-brawl (involving Margaret) takes the slumming agenda a bit further than is credible.

One historically accurate scene shows Margaret watching Tony on TV, announcing their forthcoming divorce in a solemn spirit of regret. But they missed their chance to follow-up with her significant riposte "Best acting I ever saw."

As this film was made with at least half an eye on America, there had to be some rather obvious signalling of who's who in the zoo, and this can threaten the quality of the dialogue. Her confidante would normally have broken the news of her lover's suicide by just saying "Robin's dead", without having to provide a surname. Also the timelining of the story with newsreel clips and pictures of the moon-landings is as contrived as it is unnecessary.

If the male characters tend to deliver a wooden performance, it may just have been lack of opportunity. The plot largely reflects the boredom of royal life, and Margaret's circle was notably short of masterful and commanding males anyway. There were certainly some wooden performances by those men who were pretending to play the piano, with their hands conveniently out of shot. Viewers are used to this cheap trick, but they do expect to see some realistic mimicking, with the arms moving in rhythm, somewhere near the right end of the keyboard, at least. Not this time around. A pity, because the piano was a big part of Margaret's life, and many of her happiest hours were spent strumming or singing or both. Indeed, her doomed lover Robin was a jazz-pianist by profession. If they couldn't find a piano-playing actress for the star-role, they could at least have found one or two proper musicians to make up numbers.

Like all treatments of Princess Margaret, this film tries to conjure a woman of mystery and fascination out of basically ordinary clay. It may convince the young, who don't remember her. To others, it's just an agreeable piece of period wallpaper.
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1/10
Dire
dabirchall30 November 2005
This is one very dire production. The general consensus has always been that while Princess Margaret may have been spoilt and pampered and may have revelled in the excess of luxury at her disposal, she was a very beautiful young woman. Here was the production's weakest point, the actress failed to get that across. It also appeared that the production budget couldn't stretch to a hairdresser - from the outset, the hair on the Princess Margaret character had a permanent birds nest in disarray look and looked as if she had been dragged through a bush. The actor playing the Duke of Edinburgh appeared to have prepared for his role by watching Rory Bremner imitate Prince Charles and was farcical.

The production was a flaw ridden, cliché ridden, embarrassing load of rubbish. I think all Daily Mail readers deserve a free DVD copy for Christmas!
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6/10
More porn than portrayal
wgranger27 April 2008
As an American who doesn't know much about the minor British royals, I was touched by Princess Margaret's sad and untimely death and hoped this movie would give me a more complete picture of this somewhat tragic figure. In fact, all I really knew about her was gleaned from the time I happened to be in England when the true love of her life, Peter Townsend died. I always felt kind of sorry for her because it seemed she received some bad advice at the time of the Townsend incident and never got over not getting to marry the true love of her life. At least that's what I thought the movie would portray. Boy, was I in for a shock. I think the movie could have been subtitled, "Margaret Does the UK" (a takeoff of Debbie Does Dallas). All the sex, even if true, was overdone and too graphic, and I'm no prude either. The main actress who portrayed Margaret is unknown to me but seemed to do a good job although much more obese than what I knew Margaret to be from photos of her younger years. I was also very disappointed that the movie didn't tell much about her later years. She seems to have been abandoned by everyone including the storyline. Prince Philip's portrayal also left a lot to be desired. The character did not remotely look or act like him. And where was the Queen and the Queen Mother? The movie makes us believe that her father was her only moral compass, and with his demise, she was a "ship without a rudder". Surely her sister and mother must have given her some guidance throughout the years. I guess the producers did give us a disclaimer that the movie may not be totally factual, but I feel the movie dealt more with sexual indiscretions and clichés than why she acted the way she did. It was a very one-dimensional picture at best and not a very compelling biography in the least. I still would like to see a more balanced movie about this personage.
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