Yesterday, after our chapter meeting, I decided to go and see Elizabeth the Golden Age, to cheer myself up after a recent romantic disappointment. I figured Cate Blanchette, beautiful costumes, and Clive Owen, I was going to be in heaven. After all, my name is Elizabeth and I was seeing a movie with my name in big lights.
Well, heaven, not so much. I really wanted to like this movie. I love Tudor history and I love Cate Blanchett. The first movie, Elizabeth, which turned her into an international star was wonderful even if it was crap history.
Unfortunately this movie was even crappier history than the first one. I knew while watching it that they were trying to cram way too much into one movie. Mary Queen of Scots and the Spanish Armada? They spent more time on Philip II of Spain they did on poor Mary Queen of Scots.
And why was Samantha Morton doing a Scottish accent? Mary Queen of Scots lived in Scotland from the age of 5 until she was 19 when she came back to Scotland. She spoke french during her time at the French court, since she was briefly Queen of France. So what in god's green earth made them think she would sound Scottish? Not to mention that they never even tell you in the movie why she's a prisoner in the first place or the fact that she'd been locked up for 18 years. The Babington plot which I'm just guessing is what I saw in the movie, was totally convoluted in the film. I had no idea who Rhys Ifans was supposed to be playing or that Walsingham's half brother was involved.
Which brings me to Clive Owen. Maybe I'm biased but there really wasn't enough of him in this movie. And once again it was crap history. Sir Walter Raleigh and Beth Throckmorton didn't get married until 1591, long after the Spanish Armada, and there is no evidence that Raleigh was involved with Sir Francis Drake (who was introduced about 5 seconds before the very end of the movie. The hero of the whole thing and he's barely mentioned. Sheesh!)
But doesn't Clive look dashing hanging from the mast in a scene where the British decide to burn a bunch of ships as the Spanish Armada comes sailing up right into the blazing inferno thereby saving Britain from speaking with a Castilian accent. There's an incredibly sexy scene where he's undressing Bess, at the same time that Elizabeth is looking at her naked body in the mirror.
Another problem with this film is that Cate Blanchett does not look like an aging monarch. She looks fantastic. Elizabeth at this time was 55 years old. She'd spent years wearing white lead paint on her face. The one thing they did get right was all the wigs that the Queen wore.
The costumes were absolutely stunning, and the performances were uniformly good, but it seemed pretty paint by numbers to me. There was none of the true excitement that there was in the first movie. Maybe because they tried to cram too many events into the movie, with very little explanation, as if everyone had had a crash course in English history before they came to see the movie.
Or it might possibly be Elizabeth I overload. Since the first movie came out we've had miniseries starring Ann-Marie Duff called the Virgin Queen, and one starring Helen Mirren, not to mention David Starkey's excellent documentary that was shown on PBS. Everyone just seemed tired in this one. Even Clive wasn't twinkling with his usual intensity. Seriously a whole movie could be done just on Sir Walter Raleigh trying to establish the colony of Roanoke and we all know what happened with that.
Still there were some nice moments, such as when Elizabeth, suspecting something was going with with Bess and Raleigh has them dance the Volta which chiefly consists of the man lifting the woman into the air, and the scene towards the end where Elizabeth exhorts her troops before they go into battle. She was wearing a lovely flowing wig and armour that looked like it was designed by Dolce and Gabbana.
I would have to give this movie a C+.