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
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)