‘The Crown’ lavishly brings life to its namesake

November 29, 2016 — by Caitlin Ju

Netflix recreates history with stunningly accurate series.

British royalty, troubled faces and a $100 million price tag, and you’ve got Netflix’s most expensive series: “The Crown.” The new 10-part drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II was released on Nov. 4 with as much success and critical acclaim as its Netflix predecessor “Stranger Things.”

The series’ first season focuses on young Queen Elizabeth II, played by Claire Foy, as she ascends to the throne and bears the burden of the crown. With a life planned with her husband Philip Mountbatten, played by Matt Smith, Elizabeth is thrust onto the throne at age 25 after her father King George VI’s unexpected death from lung cancer. Though at times frustratingly poised to viewers, Foy brilliantly re-enacts the inner struggle of balancing her duties of queen, loving wife, mother and sister.

The show captures these family relationships perfectly. The overly proud and charming Philip, once a Greek prince, reluctantly adjusts to his wife’s new status, clearly insecure with the new difference in power. As a result the carefree marriage between Elizabeth and Philip begins to show signs of wear.

Sometimes, I just wanted to scream at Philip to be more supportive instead of partying. It also takes a certain self-control not to wince when he throws a fit for being the only man unable to give his last name to their children. In his defense, he had to forfeit his prized naval career and any chance for their family to have a normal life, and it was the 1950s.

In one of the series’ most powerful scenes, after Elizabeth refuses Philip’s request to make an exception for him, Philip kneels before her during her coronation. It’s a simple act in theory, but it reveals a significant moment for the couple and signals that Elizabeth is not the pushover queen everyone had anticipated.

Played by non-British actor John Lithgow, prime minister Winston Churchill is her most famous doubter, starting the season by complaining about the queen’s inadequacy. But the friendship between Elizabeth and Churchill soon becomes an endearing necessity for viewers. Amazingly, Lithgow shows no sign of his American accent, and the towering physical transformation into his character was incredible, leaving no room for disbelief that the historical figure had been revived in full force.

What surprises me and what I love best about “The Crown” is its nearly perfect historical accuracy. No expense is spared with the elaborate wardrobe designs and the show’s setting throughout the United Kingdom and particularly beautiful shots in South Africa. From the details of Elizabeth’s coronation dress and the Great Smog of 1952 to the scandalous relationship between Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend, “The Crown” follows history attentively while filling in the gaps with vital emotion.

The two most refreshing characters are Vanessa Kirby’s portrayal of Princess Margaret, whose role at times feels too small for her lively personality, and Alex Jennings’ evil Duke of Windsor, Elizabeth’s uncle who abdicated the throne. Yes, it’s as complicated as it sounds. But that’s the beauty of the series — the focus is not always on Elizabeth, though the storyline eventually ties back to her.

“The Crown” may have started tentatively in its first season, but the subtle, growing power of each scene invites the audience to take a closer look at the woman who wears the crown. Though creator Peter Morgan said to Variety that he prefers not to know if the royal family or the Queen herself has watched the series, I would like to believe they would approve. With five more seasons already planned, I suggest you start binge-watching this historically accurate and powerful show now.

 
1 view this week