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Her Majesty /

Rated: PG

Starring: Sally Andrews, Vicky Haughton, Anna Sheridan, Mike Clare, Craig Elliot

Directed by: Mark J. Gordon

Produced by: Walter Coblenz
Written by:
Mark J. Gordon
Distributor: E.P. Production


     Her Majesty, a small film that has been imported into the United States from New Zealand, announces itself on the heels of Whale Rider. This is a bit of a tragedy, considering the latter film’s superiority over the former. Yes, they are both members of the coming-of-age genre and are set in the same country, but Her Majesty is a significant step down from its predecessor. It is nothing more, and nothing less, than another sugar-coated girl-power movie for ‘tweens, not much different from the 2003 American effort, starring Amanda Bynes, What a Girl Wants.

     I had a chance to catch Her Majesty back at the San Diego Film Festival, a month ago, and I’m rather glad I chose not to waste my time. While a few of the movies that I saw there were of a lesser quality, spending precious, non-regulatory cinema-going time on such drivel would have a complete waste. Then again, at least then I wouldn’t have had to pay an entire seven dollars to see it. Viewing Her Majesty is certainly not worth any financial expense.

     The film follows simpleton girl Elizabeth Wakefield (Sally Andrews) and her letter-writing campaign, inviting the Queen of England to visit her small New Zealand town, called Middleton. Amidst this, the native Maori people are immigrating back into Middleton, reclaiming rights to jobs and land in their homeland, which the whites have taken over. It is then that Elizabeth meets Hira Mata (Vicky Haughton, who also starred in Whale Rider), an old Maori woman who lives in a broken-down house that local kids like to throw stones at.

     It doesn’t take very long for Elizabeth’s wishes for the Queen’s visit to come true, but many subplots develop in the mean time, involving the girl’s brother and teacher. All of these are recycled clichés that do not hold a bit of resonance to the film’s thematic value. Sure, there’s a lot of yelling and kicking and smiling in Her Majesty, but it’s all superficial. In essence, this is Chick Flick #10293, wrapped up in the cellophane of a limitedly-released, sophisticated art-house picture.

     There has been a lot of positive buzz regarding the acting and the chemistry between the cast-members in Her Majesty, but I don’t see any validity in this praise. When watching it, I realized what all of the performers are going for, in their work, but their efforts do not function sufficiently in the confines of what the prolifically restraining writer/director Mark J. Gordon attempts to do. Several parts of Her Majesty feel like hopeless causes; only the scenes between Elizabeth and Hira Mata capture near flawlessness.

     I can grant the film that it has a beautifully polished look, granted its rather low budget. One scene, in which Hira Mata shows Elizabeth the rural New Zealand countryside, is astoundingly gorgeous; our eyes melt when gazing at the surreal contrast between the lush greens of the earth and the endless blue of the sky. Who needs Peter Jackson’s extraordinary swooping views of the same locales when they could have those of Her Majesty for a very small fraction of the price?

     I suppose my gripes of Her Majesty are the same as those that I have for most all fluffy coming-of-age stories. While sometimes enjoyable, the movie drifts off into its own idealistic views of the situations it encounters, shredding all of its ability to enthrall. It remains pleasant throughout its duration, but after the film was over, I was ready to forget all about it.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (11.10.2004)

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