Elizabeth – The Golden Age

The nominations:

  • Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role : Cate Blanchett
  • Achievement in Costume Design: Alexandra Byrne

The Black-and-White:

Here’s the plot synopsis from oscar.com:

In late sixteenth-century England, Queen Elizabeth I, now a monarch at the height of her power, finds herself drawn to the dashing Sir Walter Raleigh, recently returned from his voyage to the New World. Closer to home, Elizabeth also faces challenges to her reign from King Philip II of Spain and Catholic plotters who hope to place her cousin, Mary Stuart, on the throne.

Let me preface this review by saying that I enjoyed the first film in this series. I remember seeing it; I was a postdoc in Berkeley, and I was sufficiently inspired by the historical events (which were by and large unfamiliar to me) that I read a few historical tomes about Liz’s rule.

For me, it was time well spent.

Fast forward nine years to the second installment in this modern movie series, and … times have changed.

There are occasions when some stories, or fantasies, should remain untold. I’m afraid this is one of them.

The Elizabethan Golden Age is told through a lens of two uninteresting, and unengaging, lenses:

First, the unrequited purported love between Queen Elizabeth I, and Sir Walter Raleigh. (My comment on this is … blech. I don’t know how many films I have seen on this general theme, with only different characters, and so I say .. enough! Can a modern film not find a way to explore … love in a new way, or must we sashay down familiar paths, with familiar themes, yet again, albeit with new character designations, and decent costumes?)

Nyet.

No undiscovered country here.

Second, the supposed novel story line that Liz may have had, ahem, forbidden … attraction for her female attendant is …. supposed to be provocative and engaging, I suppose, but in execution comes across as far-fetched and incredible. Let me be clear, however: historically, I have no idea whether this putative circumstance existed; what I do know is that the execution in the film was farsical, if not incredible.

I don’t buy it.

Furthermore, I would like to believe the Tin Lizzie actually had a hand in saving Jolly Old from the invasion of Spain. However (and mostly accurately) England and all Her Glory was saved from a(n un)fortunate change of weather, wreaking havoc upon the Spanish armada…

To be clear: this was a defining moment in English history. Queen Elizabeth, added to be sure by the weather, but also by cunning strategy and careful preparation, won the day, and the history of that great nation was forever changed.

Good story, yeah?

None of that was successfully conveyed in the film.

Here is my bottom line: this was a … decent film. It underperformed, by a large, large margin, the expectations of the first film, and of the subject matter itself. If I needed to give this film a numerical grade on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best, I would give it a 6 — it didn’t completely fail, but on the other hand it didn’t reach any memorable heights either.

For the nominations:

Cate Blanchett: Ug. She was OK, but I don’t see this as an inspired performance. To be honest, the script didn’t help her. But, on the other hand, she didn’t really help either. A “mailed in’ (literally?) performance. Oscar? No.

Costumes? Cmon, a film like this is almost made to receive a costume nomination. Did it deserve it? Sure — the costumes were … believable. Did the costumes invite us to a place and time we, modern viewers, have never seen? Um, hmmmm, I guess I’d say no. A solid effort, to be sure, but a masterpiece it was not.

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