A review of “Her Majesty” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG for mildly scary moments

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

 

 

There’s a sweet little movie screaming to get out of the sentimental New Zealand fantasy Her Majesty.

Its charm rest squarely on the shoulders of spunky pre-teen Elizabeth Wakefield (newcomer Sally Andrews), a young dreamer who fantasizes about a visit from freshly-coronated Queen Elizabeth II, who is expected to tour the tiny island nation. 

Middleton, New Zealand in the early fifties is all spit-and-polish; an ode to more innocent times and social climes. Elizabeth is living the quintessential provincial life; pesky older brother (Craig Elliott as the startlingly psychopathic Stuart Wakefield), supportive mum and dad and a keen fascination for the local witch.

Naturally the “witch” (Vicky Haughton as Hira Mata) is merely an old woman and Maori legend steeped in the history of vintage Middleton and its Maori roots.  Hard choices stem from that relationship; ultimately the friendship is put to the toughest test.

Majesty spreads itself too thin, veering from the pivotal event (young Elizabeth’s tireless royal letter-writing campaign and Queen Elizabeth’s visit) and focusing its dramatic efforts elsewhere; coming-of-age, family troubles, social ostracism and a mad crush on the school’s much older Grenadier Display Drill Team instructor.

 Overly-caricatured portrayals are tempered with nicely observed cultural commentary and a well-intentioned sweetness. But less is more; an excess of tired elements lend the narrative the trite sensation of an ABC After-School Special.

Majesty was financed outside the studio system by well-connected locals (including Lisa Gordon of Palo Alto and Susan Hailey of Atherton) determined to realize writer/director Mark Gordon’s (Lisa’s brother) dream of making his pet project a reality. Kudos for the effort and the heartfelt stab at family-friendly cinema.