I had mixed feelings about the prospects of a film drama portraying Queen Elizabeth and the royal family—and Tony Blair—in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death in a car crash in 1997. But director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan have charted an interesting course through those characters and events. Helen Mirren’s incarnation of the present-day Queen of England brings a curious sort of elegance to the woman’s fabled dowdiness. Yet the portrait remains an intriguingly ironic one, thanks especially to the parallel mini-dramas laid out in Morgan’s screenplay. In Morgan’s telling, the queen and newly elected Prime Minister Blair become a sort of political odd couple struggling to preserve a shred of respect for British royalty amid the blossoming of the “democratic,” media-fuelled royalty embodied by the late Princess Di.