Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Elizabeth: The Golden Age **

Director: Shekhar Kapur
Cate Blanchett
Clive Owen
Geoffrey Rush Abbie Cornish Samantha Morton

It is the year 1585 and Queen Elizabeth I (Blanchett) faces some of the most difficult times in her reign.
The Vatican has begun a Holy War against all impure religions and Protestant England is the biggest enemy.
Spanish King Philip II (Jordi Mollá) has begun to conspire against Elizabeth with the help of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots (a subtly dignified Morton).
She also must deal with constant pressure from her advisors about remaining unmarried.
Things begin to look better for her when explorer Walter Raleigh (Owen making his best Errol Flynn impression) arrives in the court, stirring her sense of adventure, along with her hormones.
But dutiful to her self appointed Virgin Queen title she channels all sexual desire engaging in war to defeat the Spanish armada and trying to survive in order to lead her country to its eventual Renaissance.
A film completely in love with its own beauty, this "Elizabeth" has lost the brutal beauty of its 1998 predecessor and has dedicated all of its efforts into looking voluptuosly beautiful.
The biggest example might lie in its lead star, by the time depicted in the film, the Queen was in her 50s, yet the only thing that hints at her age might be her menopausic rage and fixation on invisible wrinkles.
Historical accuracy hasn't been perhaps the best feature in Kapur's films, but while in the original one his liberties served as necessary metaphors, here they all are in service of what would make the most extravagant shot or how much soap opera worthy drama the audience can handle.
When it could've drawn interesting parallels with the Holy War and our times, the plot instead worries about how Elizabeth will react when she learns Raleigh has a thing for one of her ladies in waiting (Cornish).
When it could've explored so much about the Queen's internal drama, it chooses to show us how her ladies take care of her wigs. It seems she has one in every style and size, including a long one, complete with tresses for when she must get in armor a la Joan of Arc and inspire her troops with a "Gladiator" speech (No wonder that the young Spanish Infanta has an action figure that looks like her).
The script does a great disservice to the brilliant lead actress; Blanchett must've realized how the grandiosity of the settings and costumes, along with the campy lines, drowned the drama and literally tried to give an even bigger performance.
In some scenes, like when she condemns Mary to death, Blanchett taps into the fear and insecurity that made Elizabeth a person above all things.
But when minutes later she is screaming "I keep my bitches on my collars" you wonder when did Blanchett stop playing Elizabeth and a deranged Norma Desmond arrived to play the Queen of Hearts from "Alice in Wonderland".
A film that promised so much and delivered pure camp, probably doesn't bode well for part three "Elizabeth: The Golden Girl".

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